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Understanding What Leads to Stillbirth


Giving birth to a stillborn baby is a very difficult and heart-wrenching experience. You’re probably grasping for answers–Why did it happen? How did it happen? Did I do anything wrong?

Stillbirth, which is defined as the death of a baby toward the end of the pregnancy, occurs in 1 of every 200 pregnancies. Many happen before labor but some occur during delivery.

If your baby was stillborn, you should speak with a Cleveland birth injury attorney to discuss whether medical negligence may have been a cause. If so, your Cleveland birth injury attorney may be able to help you prepare an Ohio birth injury claim.

Common Causes of Stillbirth

Although an autopsy is the best way to determine why some babies are stillborn, autopsies are not always standard procedure. However, if you would like to have an autopsy performed, your Cleveland birth injury attorney will provide assistance.

When building your case, your Cleveland birth injury attorney will assess some common factors that can lead to a stillborn delivery, including:

  • Placenta problems – mothers with conditions such as placental abruption, preeclampsia or pregnancy-induced high blood pressure are twice as likely to have a stillbirth as women who do not have these conditions. Sometimes the underlying problem that contributed to the baby’s death could be insufficient nutrients or oxygen.
  • Birth defects – chromosomal problems account for up to 10% of stillborn babies. Other causes of birth defects could be genetic, environmental or unknown.
  • Growth restriction – if a baby is small or has stopped growing at an appropriate rate, the risk of stillbirth related to asphyxia and unknown causes increases.
  • Infections – from the 24th to the 27th weeks of pregnancy, bacterial infections can lead to a stillbirth if your doctor fails to recognize and treat the infections.

Some less common causes of stillbirth include accidents involving the umbilical cord, maternal diabetes, trauma, and pregnancy that extends beyond 42 weeks. In about one-third of stillbirths, the cause is unknown, according to the American Pregnancy Association.

It’s your medical team’s responsibility to recognize and treat infections and other conditions that could lead to a stillbirth. If you were at risk of delivering a stillborn baby, you and your baby should have been closely monitored.

The Value of a Potential Claim

Courts across the country evaluate the recoverable damages for stillbirth cases differently. In some cases, there may be limits on damages imposed by the state legislature (called non-economic damages caps). However, most states permit the parents to recover for any physical pain, emotional anguish, and the cost of medical care caused by the negligence.

The most significant factor, of course, is the emotional anguish felt by the parents who have lost their baby. The exact value depends on a number of factors, including:

  • The location (venue) of any eventual lawsuit, because different juries calculate the value of these harms and losses differently
  • The degree of negligence (if the negligence is more difficult to defend, the claim has a higher value)
  • The specific state laws regarding what is compensable

Contact Us

If your baby died before birth and you have questions about whether it was preventable, please contact our medical malpractice attorneys for more information at (440) 252-4399 or online for a free consultation.

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