Late Term Miscarriage or Stillbirth
When a baby dies inside the womb, it is nothing short of a tragedy. This is especially true when the baby dies past the "risky" stage, or in the first trimester of pregnancy. Understanding how and why your baby died can help you gain some closure and take the necessary steps to prevent it from happening again.
What Is Late-Term Miscarriage?
A miscarriage is considered late-term if the baby dies anywhere between the end of the first trimester and 20 weeks. Some late miscarriages (also called second trimester miscarriages) are technically missed miscarriages, or miscarriages that happened earlier on but were not detected until a few weeks later.
Miscarriage vs. Stillbirth
Miscarriages differ from stillbirth in the timing of the fetus' death. Fetal deaths before 20 weeks are considered miscarriages. Death of the fetus occurring after 20 weeks is classified as stillbirth.
The most common signs of a late miscarriage are similar to those of early miscarriage, and include bleeding during the pregnancy, abdominal pain and cramping. Some women may also experience bloating and shoulder pain if the bleeding occurs internally. Signs specific to late term miscarriage include:
- Severe back pain
- Weight loss
- Labor-like contractions
- Excessive vaginal mucus
Causes of Miscarriage
The causes of miscarriages vary, and could be related to genetic problems, birth infections, developmental defects and other pregnancy complications.
An incompetent cervix is one of the most common causes of late miscarriage. In normal pregnancies, the cervix closes to keep the baby safely inside the uterus. In cases of an incompetent cervix, the cervix prematurely dilates. This allows the baby to slip down in the cervix resulting in miscarriage.
Birth infections are passed from mother to baby through the umbilical cord. Due to the underdeveloped immune systems, viruses that would normally run their course in a healthy adult can lead to serious and fatal infection in a fetus.
Unlike these natural causes, some miscarriages are the direct result of human error. Medication mistakes, mismanagement of a high-risk pregnancy and, in some cases, the failure to prevent birth defects are all causes of concern. A doctor will likely not tell you when an error was made, so it is important to recognize some warning signs:
- Did you find out afterward the medication prescribed to you during pregnancy was dangerous to a fetus?
- Were you diagnosed with an infection during pregnancy that a doctor dismissed as being "harmless" to your child?
- Do you believe your doctor should have known about risk factors presenting in your pregnancy?
Coping With a Late Miscarriage
If you suffered a late-term miscarriage, going through a natural grieving process is normal. Although you may want to stay strong, doing so can be harmful to your emotional being. Rely on your spouse or partner and do not hesitate to seek out support groups if necessary. Also, consider therapeutic methods, such as writing to your baby, to help express your emotions. If you feel depressed, talk to your doctor or a counselor, as this is a serious side effect of losing your baby.
The good news is that it is possible for women to carry a baby full term following a late-term miscarriage. These are considered high-risk pregnancies. Your obstetrician may require additional testing and vigilance to spot any warning signs of another miscarriage. Some people say the best way to move forward from a miscarriage is to conceive again. You and your partner will need to decide what is best for you.
The Birth Injury Team is a subsidiary of Silvers, Langsam & Weitzman, P.C., made up of experienced attorneys and medical professionals. Our lawyers have more than 100 years of combined experience handling birth injury cases. We are dedicated to helping parents understand their child's condition and guiding them through the process of securing the care and support they need. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients across the United States.