Examination of a Stillbirth Workup: A Rural Statewide Experience

South Med J. 2022 Nov;115(11):818-823. doi: 10.14423/SMJ.0000000000001471.


Objective: The objective of our study was to determine whether recommended assessments were conducted on stillbirths delivered in our predominantly rural state.

Methods: This was a descriptive study of stillbirths delivered in a rural state and included in one site of the Birth Defects Study to Evaluate Pregnancy Exposures stillbirth study. Hospital and fetal death records were examined to determine whether the following areas were evaluated: genetic testing (noninvasive perinatal testing, quad screen, amniocentesis/chorionic villus sampling with karyotype, microarrays, fetal tissue specimen), placenta/membrane/cord sent for pathologic examination, examination of the stillbirth after delivery by the healthcare provider, and fetal autopsy was performed.

Results: From July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2020, there were 1108 stillbirths delivered in Arkansas. The most frequent assessments undertaken were placental pathology (72%), genetic testing (67%), fetal inspection (31%), and autopsy (13%). All four assessments were done in 2% of stillbirth cases, three assessments in 27%, two assessments in 47%, one assessment in 14%, and no assessment in 15%. There was no association between stillbirth assessment evaluation by gestational age (<28 weeks and > 28 weeks; P = 0.221); however, there was an overall association between hospital delivery volume with number of components completed (P < 0.0001). Hospitals with >2000 deliveries had a higher proportion of three or four completions compared with those hospitals with <1000 deliveries or 1000 to 2000 deliveries (P = 0.021 and P < 0.0001).

Conclusions: Fetal stillbirth assessment is suboptimal in our rural state, with 15% of stillbirths having no assessment and only 2% having all four assessments. There is no association between stillbirth assessment and gestational age (<28 weeks vs >28 weeks), but there is a correlation between delivery volume and stillbirth assessment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Autopsy
  • Female
  • Fetal Death
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Placenta* / abnormalities
  • Pregnancy
  • Stillbirth*