A stillbirth is a baby born deadafter 24 completed weeks of pregnancy.

If the baby dies before 24 completed weeks, it's known as a Miscarriage or late foetal loss.

Stillbirth is more common than many people think.There are more than 3,600 stillbirths every year in the UK, and one in every 200 births ends in a stillbirth. Eleven babies are stillborn every day in the UK, making it 15 times more common than cot death .

What causes stillbirth?

Around a half of all stillbirths are linked to placental complications. This means that for some reason the placenta (the organ that links the baby's blood supply to the mother's and nourishes the baby in the womb) isn't functioning properly.

About 10% of stillborn babies have some kind of birth defect that contributed to their death. A small percentage of stillbirths are caused by problems with the mother's health, for example pre-eclampsia , or other problems, including cord accidents and infections.

Youmay be able to choose whether you would like to wait for labour to begin naturally, or if you want it to be started with medication (induced).

If your health is at risk, the baby may need to be delivered as soon as possible. It's rare for a stillborn baby to be deliveredby caesarean section .

At this stage, it's common for parents to ask why their baby died. Those caring for you may give you some basic information about tests to try to find out why your baby died.

You may also wish to give your baby a name and create memories by taking photographs or a lock of hair. It's completely up to you what you want to do.Decisions about what to do are very personal and theres no right or wrong way to respond.

Finding out why a stillbirth has happened can be helpfulwith the grieving process and provide information if you want to get pregnant in the future, so you'll be offered tests to try to find out why your baby died.

By law, all stillborn babies have to be formally registered. In England and Wales, this must be done within 42 days of your baby's birth.

A senior doctor will discuss the test results and post-mortem (if you decided to have one) during a follow-up appointment several weeks after the birth. You may also want to discuss any possible effects on future pregnancies.

Find bereavement support services in your area.

Some of these groups are run by parents who've experienced stillbirth, or by healthcare professionals, such as baby loss support workers or specialist midwives.

However, there are some thingsyou can do to reduce your risk of having a stillbirth, such as:

  • stopping smoking
  • avoiding alcohol and drugs during pregnancy these can seriously affect your baby's development and increase the risk of miscarriage and stillbirth
  • attending all your antenatal appointments so that midwives can monitor the growth and wellbeing of your baby

This helps scientists to understand more about this complication. You can opt out of the register at any time.

Find out more about the register .

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 28 Nov 2016