US tops chart with 24,000 stillbirths each year; Study blames it on smoking, BP

There are about 24,000 annual stillbirths in US, says Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Newborn Baby
Newborn Baby - Representational Picture Reuters

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are about 24,000 stillbirths every year in the US. A recent study suggests that nearly 25 percent of the stillbirths can be prevented. Focusing on women's health care before pregnancy can be a major development in preventing stillbirths.

Placental insufficiency is quite common in women, although the rates might differ. In case of placental insufficiency, the placenta obstructs oxygen flow to the fetus which leads to stillbirths.

High blood pressure, smoking and drug abuse are considered to be the biggest risk factors for this condition. In order to prevent the increasing rate of stillbirths, researchers are paying more attention to women's diet and proper physical exercise.

Over the last 30 years, with the advancement in medical science, the number of stillbirths has reduced minutely due to proper prenatal care. According to the CDC, the rate has remained unchanged since 2006.

The team led by Jessica Page from the University Of Utah Health Center conducted an analysis of 512 stillbirth cases in collaboration with Stillbirth Collaborative Research Network. The team saw that 22.3 percent of the stillbirths could have been prevented.

Factors responsible for stillbirths

The research revealed that placental insufficiency caused 13 percent of preventable stillbirths, among which six percent had complications in their pregnancy, four percent had hypertensive disorders and three percent had premature labor. Placental disorders caused 80 percent of the stillbirths that fell into more than one of the above categories.

Placental insufficiency affects one in every 300 pregnancies. This disorder obstructs adequate blood flow to the placenta. Smoking, diabetes, preeclampsia or high blood pressure during pregnancy are major risk factors. According to CDC, obesity, addiction to alcohol and smoking during pregnancy are major factors for causing stillbirths. During the time of labor and delivery, infants are thus deprived of adequate oxygen in case the mother suffers from placental insufficiency. The babies are at higher risk of developing hypothermia and low blood sugar.

How race and ethnicity affect stillbirth

The team found that almost 25 percent of stillbirths occurred in Hispanic women, 27 percent among African-Americans, 19 percent among whites and 19 percent among other 'race-ethnicity'. These findings reveal that women of color tend to have a higher rate of stillbirths than white women.

National Institute of Health in its 2009 research found that African-American women bear a high chance of delivering a stillborn child than white women.

Proper treatment of placental insufficiency can lower stillbirth rates. Preeclampsia is a major risk factor for this condition, therefore, the mother's blood pressure should be monitored properly and in case of diabetes, the blood sugar level should be kept under regular check. Bed rest in some pregnancies can work wonders as well.