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Prediction and Prevention of Recurrent Stillbirth

Reddy, Uma M. MD, MPH

doi: 10.1097/01.AOG.0000287616.71602.d0
Clinical Expert Series

Stillbirth is one of the most common adverse pregnancy outcomes in the United States, occurring in one out of every 200 pregnancies. There is a paucity of information on the outcome of pregnancies after stillbirth. Prior stillbirth is associated with a twofold to 10-fold increased risk of stillbirth in the future pregnancy. The risk depends on the etiology of the prior stillbirth, presence of fetal growth restriction, gestational age of the prior stillbirth, and race. Categorization of the cause of the initial stillbirth will allow better estimates of individual recurrence risk and guide management. A history of stillbirth also increases the risk of other adverse pregnancy outcomes in the subsequent pregnancy such as placental abruption, cesarean delivery, preterm delivery, and low birth weight infants. Prospective studies have revealed an increased risk of stillbirth with low pregnancy-associated plasma protein A, elevated maternal serum alpha fetoprotein, abnormal uterine artery Doppler studies, and antiphospholipid antibodies. However, the positive predictive value of these factors individually is poor. Because fetal growth restriction is associated with almost half of all stillbirths, the correct diagnosis of fetal growth restriction is essential. The use of individualized or customized growth standards will improve prediction of adverse pregnancy outcome by distinguishing growth-restricted fetuses from constitutionally small, healthy fetuses. Antepartum fetal surveillance and fetal movement counting are also mainstays of poststillbirth pregnancy management.

The twofold to tenfold increased risk of recurrent stillbirth (fetal death at or beyond 20 weeks of gestation) requires closer surveillance of subsequent pregnancies.

From the Pregnancy and Perinatology Branch, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland.

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Corresponding author: Uma M. Reddy MD, MPH, Pregnancy and Perinatology Branch, NICHD, NIH, 6100 Executive Blvd, Rm 4B03, MSC 7510, Bethesda, MD 20892 (express mail: Rockville, MD 20852); e-mail: reddyu@mail.nih.gov.

Financial Disclosure The author has no potential conflicts of interest to disclose.

© 2007 by The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Published by Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.