Basic information for topics, such as "What is it?" and "How common is it?" is available in the Topic Information section. In addition, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) that are specific to a certain topic are answered in this section.
- Is it safe to have another baby after a stillbirth?
- Does having one stillbirth increase the risk of another stillbirth?
- What special precautions should women take to reduce stillbirth risk in future pregnancies?
- How can families cope after stillbirth?
Is it safe to have another baby after a stillbirth?
Some families decide that they want to have another baby in the future despite the difficult experience of a stillbirth. Most women who get pregnant after stillbirth go on to give birth to healthy babies.1
It is best to discuss the situation with a health care provider to understand any risks and concerns. If a family does decide to try to have another baby, the health care provider may take certain precautions to help minimize risk.
Does having one stillbirth increase the risk of another stillbirth?
Yes. On average, women who have one stillbirth are two to 10 times more likely to have another stillbirth than are women who have not had a stillbirth. Nonetheless, most women who get pregnant again after a stillbirth deliver a live, healthy baby. Increased risk depends on several factors:1
- Race. On average, African American mothers who have experienced stillbirth are at higher risk for future stillbirth than are White mothers who have experienced stillbirth.
- Cause of the prior stillbirth. The specific cause of the prior stillbirth may affect the risk to future pregnancies. For example:
- If the prior stillbirth resulted from a birth defect, future pregnancies may also be at risk for that birth defect and the same outcome. The risk depends on the specific type of birth defect. Parents who have experienced a stillbirth due to a birth defect should talk to their health care providers or to a genetic counselor to learn more about future risk.
- If the mother had preeclampsia in her first pregnancy, she is at increased risk for preeclampsia in later pregnancies, especially the earlier in pregnancy she developed the disorder.
- Certain problems with the placenta, such as placental abruption, are more likely to happen after they have occurred once. A woman whose stillbirth was caused by this type of problem is at risk of experiencing the same outcome in future pregnancies.
- The timing of the prior stillbirth also has an effect. The earlier in pregnancy the stillbirth occurred, the higher the risk of another stillbirth in a future pregnancy.
- Fetal growth restriction, meaning the developing fetus was unable to grow as big as it should because it was not able to get enough nutrients from the placenta, is a risk factor for stillbirth.
In addition to the possible increased risk for another stillbirth, post-stillbirth pregnancies are at greater risk, on average, for complications such as Cesarean delivery and low birth weight.1
What special precautions should women take to reduce stillbirth risk in future pregnancies?
With careful monitoring and early delivery, health care providers can help women lower the odds of a repeat stillbirth.2
Knowing the cause of a previous stillbirth, if possible, can provide valuable information for helping to reduce the risk for another stillbirth.3,4 If the cause of death was not investigated right away, health care providers may be able to determine the cause later by testing the mother for medical conditions that can cause stillbirth, such as antiphospholipid antibody syndrome.2,4
Before a woman tries to get pregnant after a stillbirth, she should work with her health care provider to treat or control any risk factors she has that could cause or contribute to another stillbirth. These risks may include obesity, smoking, certain medical conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes, and certain infections.2,4
Early in a new pregnancy after a stillbirth, health care providers often use ultrasound to determine as accurately as possible the estimated due date. As the pregnancy progresses, health care providers may use ultrasound imaging more often than they would for other pregnant women to check how well the fetus is growing. They may also conduct special tests with ultrasound to look at specific aspects of the fetus's health, such as how well blood is flowing through the umbilical cord if poor fetal growth is diagnosed.2 Besides imaging, providers may perform non-stress tests or biophysical profile testing, and ask mothers to keep track of the fetus's movement (called a "kick count").2
How can families cope after stillbirth?
There is no one right way to cope with the loss of a baby. Every person and every culture deals with death in a different way.
Many people find it helpful to talk with other families that have suffered a similar loss. Parents who have lost a child to stillbirth may also want to discuss their feelings with their health care provider or see a professional counselor who can help them process their feelings.
If you have experienced a stillbirth, you might want to consult the following resources: