The aim of this study was to assess any changes in causespecific fetal death rates in the nonreferred population of a tertiary care unit. The fetal death rate (per 1000 births) among 88,651 births diminished from 11.5 in the 1960s to 5.1 in the 1980s. Fetal death due to intrapartum asphyxia and Rh isoimmunization has almost disappeared. Toxemia and diabetes continue to make similar and small contributions to fetal death rates. There has been a significant decline in unexplained antepartum fetal deaths and in those caused by fetal growth retardation, but no significant change in the death rate due to intrauterine infection or abruptio placentae. During the 1960s, the risk of fetal death was increased in women with hypertension, diabetes, or a history of stillbirth; during the 1980s, only women with a history of insulin-dependent diabetes were at risk. Improved application of current knowledge may help decrease the fetal death rate caused by fetal growth retardation. Reduction in deaths due to abruptio placentae, intrauterine infections, or lethal malformations, as well as unexplained antepartum deaths, appears to depend on better understanding of the etiology of these disorders.
(C) 1992 The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists