Etiology and prevention of stillbirth

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2005 Dec;193(6):1923-35. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2005.03.074.


Objective: This is a systematic review of the literature on the causes of stillbirth and clinical opinion regarding strategies for its prevention.

Study design: We reviewed the causes of stillbirth by performing a Medline search limited to articles in English published in core clinical journals from January 1, 1995, to January 1, 2005. Articles before this date were included if they added historical information relevant to the topic. A total of 1445 articles obtained, 113 were the basis of this review and chosen based on the criterion that stillbirth or fetal death was central to the article.

Results: Fifteen risk factors for stillbirths were identified and the prevalence of these conditions and associated risks are presented The most prevalent risk factors for stillbirth are prepregnancy obesity, socioeconomic factors, and advanced maternal age. Biologic markers associated with increased stillbirth risk are also reviewed, and strategies for its prevention identified.

Conclusion: Identification of risk factors for stillbirth assists the clinician in performing a risk assessment for each patient. Unexplained stillbirths and stillbirths related to growth restriction are the 2 categories of death that contribute the most to late fetal losses. Late pregnancy is associated with an increasing risk of stillbirth, and clinicians should have a low threshold to evaluate fetal growth. The value of antepartum testing is related to the underlying risk of stillbirth and, although the strategy of antepartum testing in patients with increased risk will decrease the risk of late fetal loss, it is of necessity associated with higher intervention rates.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Abruptio Placentae / epidemiology
  • Birth Weight
  • Comorbidity
  • Female
  • Fetal Death / etiology*
  • Fetal Death / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Infertility / epidemiology
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / epidemiology
  • Maternal Age
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / epidemiology
  • Pregnancy, Multiple
  • Pregnancy-Associated Plasma Protein-A / analysis
  • Risk Factors
  • Stillbirth / epidemiology*
  • Thrombophilia / epidemiology
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Pregnancy-Associated Plasma Protein-A