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The incidence of still-born births in the United States is 1 in every 160 pregnancies.  The diagnosis of fetal demise is usually completed via ultrasound to confirm the absence of the fetal heart beat.  Autopsy is generally recommended along with diagnostic testing in an attempt to provide causation.

Common causes of fetal demise are

  • birth defects,
  • placental issues,
  • poor fetal growth,
  • infection,
  • chronic health conditions of the mother,
  • umbilical cord accidents, and
  • trauma.

Not all causes can be identified on autopsy, nor are all causes determined. In a recent study, African American females were found to have a two-fold increased risk of stillborn births without any correlating cause. External causes are difficult to definitively correlate with fetal demise, but there are higher incidences of still birth associated with drug use. For example, cigarette smoking is the most common identifiable preventable cause of stillbirth with an odds ratio of 1.6.

This month’s criminal topic is the Criminalization of Drug Use During Pregnancy. Topics covered are:

  • Still-Born Births (6/6/14)
  • Drug Effects on the Fetus (6/13/14)
  • Legal Implications – mother (6/20/14)
  • Legal implications – fetus (6/27/14)

Note: To see all posts in this topic, click here.


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