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Causes of Stillbirth Remain Poorly Understood

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists' guidelines describe risks and causes

THURSDAY, Feb. 26 (HealthDay News) -- In a bid to tackle the lack of understanding about the risk factors and causes of stillbirth, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has issued guidelines for clinicians in a new Practice Bulletin published in the March issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Ruth C. Fretts, M.D., of Harvard Medical School in Boston, and colleagues write that stillbirth affects one in approximately 160 deliveries in the United States, amounting to an estimated 25,000 stillbirths a year. This accounts for 60 percent of all perinatal mortality in the country.

Non-Hispanic black race, first-time birth, advanced maternal age and obesity are the most common risk factors for stillbirth, the authors note, with black women having a stillbirth rate of 11.25 per 1,000 births, well above the overall rate of 6.2 per 1,000 births in 2004. Diabetic women are two to five times more likely than their non-diabetic counterparts to experience stillbirth, and among obese women the stillbirth rate is eight per 1,000 births. Causes of stillbirth include fetal growth restriction, infections, and chromosomal and genetic abnormalities, the guidelines indicate.

"These guidelines represent a notable consensus on how we should be dealing with stillbirth in this country," Fretts said in a statement. "But we have a long way to go before we have a clearer understanding of the causes of stillbirth."

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