Miscarriage or Stillbirth?

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The loss of a pregnancy can be a very difficult time for a couple. Many parents, upon learning that their baby is no longer living, become confused, upset, and overwhelmed with grief. Whether it is a miscarriage or a stillbirth, the loss of a pregnancy is something that no one ever wants to go through. And, while there are many differences between a miscarriage and a stillbirth, the grief and loss of hope that parents experience is common to both.

If your pregnancy ends before the twentieth week of pregnancy, it is known as a miscarriage. If you lose your baby after the twentieth week of pregnancy, it is known as a stillbirth. This is the biggest difference between a miscarriage and a stillbirth: one happens earlier in pregnancy, whereas one happens later in pregnancy. Still, there are other important differences between a miscarriage and a stillbirth as well.

The causes of a miscarriage and the causes of a stillbirth are often very different. The vast majority of miscarriages, for example, have to do with some sort of abnormality with the fetus. Typically, this is a chromosomal abnormality in which the fetus’ genetic makeup just didn’t go together the right way. In contrast, a stillbirth is more likely to be cause by problems with the umbilical cord or the placenta, or occasionally a birth defect in the baby. Still, there are some common possible causes of miscarriage and stillbirth, including maternal illnesses like hypertension and diabetes. When these illnesses are not treated properly, they can definitely cause problems in pregnancy, even causing a miscarriage or a stillbirth.

One of the other differences between a miscarriage and a stillbirth has to do with how frequently they occur. It is estimated that as many as 20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, often before the mother-to-be even knows that she is pregnant. While stillbirth is relatively common, less than one percent of pregnancies will end in a stillbirth. At the point that stillbirth can occur, the mother typically knows that she is pregnant.

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