Premature Birth Raises Future Stillbirth Risk
Previous Preterm Delivery or Low Birth Weight Infant Signals Risk for Future Stillbirth
WebMD News Archive
Feb. 18, 2004 -- Women who gave birth to a premature or a
low-birth-weight infant in the past may face a much higher risk of stillbirth
in future pregnancies than others, a new study shows.
Researchers say stillbirth accounts for more than half of
infant deaths in developed countries. Although many of the causes of stillbirth
are not understood, researchers say fetal growth restriction may be a major
Problem Pregnancy Raises Stillbirth Risks
In this study, researchers looked at whether the birth of a
previous premature infant or an infant of low birth weight increased the risk
of stillbirth in future pregnancies among 410,021 women in Sweden who gave
birth to their first and second children between 1983 and 1997.
Among these women, there were 1,842 stillbirths during the
first pregnancy and 1,062 during the second.
Compared with women whose first infant was born at full term
(37 weeks gestation or longer) and was of normal weight, women whose first
infant was of low birth weight and delivered either at term or prematurely were
more than twice as likely to suffer a stillbirth during their second
But the risk of stillbirth during the second pregnancy was
greatest among women who gave birth prematurely during their first pregnancy.
- Women whose first child was both a low-birth-weight infant and was born
moderately preterm (32 to 36 weeks gestation) were 3.4 times more likely to
- Women whose first child was both a low birth-weight-infant and was born
very preterm (before 32 weeks gestation) were five times more likely to suffer
The study showed the risk of stillbirth for women whose first
infant was stillborn was 2.5 greater compared with women whose first infant was
The overall rate of stillbirths ranged from 2.4 per 1,000
births among women whose first infant was born at term and was normal weight to
19 per 1,000 births among those whose first child was very premature and small
for gestational age.
Researchers say recognizing the early signs of growth problems
in the fetus may one day help prevent future stillbirths. But effective
interventions must first be developed to treat these problems.