Stillbirth – The facts
When fetal death occurs after the 20th week of pregnancy, it is referred to as a stillbirth. One out of every two hundred pregnancies in the United States ends in stillbirth each year.1 A majority of these occur without significant time to prepare. Parents often enter the doctor’s office expecting to hear news of their baby’s development and instead, must face the heartbreaking pronouncement of stillbirth and the grief that follows.
Even the right to grieve is sometimes withheld by a society that implies a fetus is not yet a baby, that a mother’s womb is not carrying a precious life. While mothers who miscarry are often not extended the grief support necessary, they are at least able to openly grieve the loss of the dreamand the end of a pregnancy that would have culminated in the live birth of a long-awaited baby. Moms and dads who lose full-term infants have the grief support of a community that recognizes and legitimizes the loss of a child. But, when a fetus dies in-utero, even the medical community can minimize the immense grief that accompanies such a loss, by failing to define the loss, as that of a baby.