How common is stillbirth?

Stillbirths in the United States

In 2006, the most recent year for which U.S. data are available, 1 out of every 167 pregnancies that made it to the 20th week ended with the death of the fetus before birth (that is, stillbirth before delivery). This translates to a total of nearly 26,000 deaths. About one-half of these stillbirths took place at 28 weeks of pregnancy or later.1

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The rate of stillbirths in the United States has been dropping since CDC began collecting data in 1950. For every 1,000 pregnancies that reached the 20th week during that year, more than 18 ended in stillbirth. The most recent data, collected in 2006, show that the rate has dropped to only about 6 stillbirths per 1,000 pregnancies that reached the 20th week.3

In the United States, there are similar numbers of stillbirth deaths and deaths of infants during their first year of life.1,2 That is, about one-half of all deaths between 20 weeks of pregnancy and the first birthday occur before delivery.

On average, the U.S. stillbirth rate has been going down. For example, in 1985, almost 1 of every 127 pregnancies that made it to week 20 ended as a stillbirth before delivery;1 in 1950, the rate was about 1 of every 53 such pregnancies.3

Stillbirths are more than twice as likely in the pregnancies of black women than in the pregnancies of white women in the United States.1 Learn more about racial disparities in stillbirth.

Stillbirths Worldwide

Using the World Health Organization definition for stillbirth, which counts stillbirths only from 28 weeks of pregnancy, there were 2,600,000 stillbirths around the world in 2009, the most recent year for which worldwide data on stillbirth are available. This translates to an average of about one stillbirth at or after 28 weeks for every 45 births in 2009.4

The stillbirth rate is highest in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa (about 1 stillbirth at the 28th week of pregnancy or later per 33 births). The rate is lowest in high-income countries—fewer than 1 per 250 births.4

  1. MacDorman, M. F., Kirmeyer, S. E., & Wilson, E. C. (2012). Fetal and perinatal mortality, United States, 2006. National Vital Statistics Reports, 60(8). Retrieved July 31, 2013, from (PDF - 433 KB) [top]
  2. Hoyert, D. L., & Xu, J. (2012). Deaths: preliminary data for 2011. National Vital Statistics Reports, 61(6). Retrieved July 23, 2013, from (PDF - 891 KB) [top]
  3. CDC. (2012). Table 13 Infant mortality rates, fetal mortality rates, and perinatal mortality rates by race: United States, selected years 1950–2010. Health, United States – 2012 ed. Atlanta, GA: Author. [top]
  4. Cousens, S., Blencowe, H., Stanton, C., Chou, D., Ahmed, S., Steinhardt, L., et al. (2011). National, regional, and worldwide estimates of stillbirth rates in 2009 with trends since 1995: a systematic analysis. The Lancet, 377(9774), 1319–1330. [top]

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