Do you see many cases of women with a previous stillbirth?
Stillbirth refers to losing a baby after 20 weeks and is, unfortunately, more common than many couples realise. In Australia, approximately 1 in 150 babies are stillborn, affecting over 2,000 Australian families every year. As such, couples who previously had a stillborn baby frequently return for antenatal care in a subsequent pregnancy. Dr. Colin Walsh is very experienced in caring for couples with previous stillbirths and runs the follow-up clinic for couples after still birth at Royal North Shore Hospital.
Am I at increased risk in my current pregnancy?
All couples are anxious during a pregnancy and worry that something may go wrong. Of course, couples who have previously lost a baby are especially concerned and this is entirely understandable. There are a wide variety of causes for stillbirth, including infection, placental problems, fetal abnormalities, high blood pressure and diabetes. In many cases, a cause cannot be found despite intensive investigations, leaving the stillbirth “unexplained”. This is a very frustrating time for couples as it seems that nobody can explain why they lost their baby.
Unfortunately, it does appear that couples who have previously experienced a stillbirth are at slightly increased risk in a future pregnancy. However, this risk very much depends on what the cause for their baby dying was and the overall risk is still quite low. Most couples who have previously lost a baby will have an uncomplicated next pregnancy and a healthy baby.
What additional treatment do you recommend in this pregnancy?
Despite current medical technology, there is no way to guarantee a healthy pregnancy. Known risk factors for stillbirth, such as smoking, maternal diabetes and high blood pressure, should be controlled as much as possible. If the previous stillbirth was related to a placental problem, there may be a role for low dose aspirin therapy – you can discuss your own individual case with us. Dr. Colin Walsh has published widely on stillbirth, both antenatally and during labour.