Intrauterine fetal death or IUFD is a condition of a fetus that dies in the womb after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Some cases of IUFD cannot be prevented, but the risk can be reduced by paying attention to the causative factors and taking appropriate preventive steps.
Each doctor may have different criteria for fetal age in determining the classification of IUFD. However, usually the fetus is said to have IUFD between the ages of 20-37 weeks. In addition, another criterion for declaring IUFD is that the weight of the fetus that died in the womb was more than 350 grams.
Although both cause the fetus to die in the womb, IUFD is different from miscarriage. The difference lies in the age of fetal death. A woman is said to have miscarried if the death of the fetus occurred at less than 20 weeks of gestation.
Causes of IUFD
Most of the causes of IUFD or also known as stillbirth is not known, but this condition can be a sign of problems in pregnancy. Various possible causes of IUFD include:
1. A placenta that doesn't work properly
Disorders of the placenta can make the supply of nutrients needed by the fetus in the womb, such as blood flow and oxygen, to be reduced. This condition can inhibit fetal development (intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) and trigger IUFD.
2. Genetic disorders
The next suspected cause of IUFD is a genetic defect or chromosomal abnormality. This condition causes the vital organs of the fetus, such as the brain and heart, to not develop properly, leading to IUFD.
Heavy bleeding that occurs in the final trimester can also be a cause of fetal death in the womb. This can happen when the placenta has begun to separate (split) from the uterus before entering labor. This condition is called placental abruption (placental abruption).
4. Certain medical conditions suffered by the mother
Diabetes, hypertension, immune disorders, malnutrition, and infection with group B Streptococcus bacteria, listeriosis, toxoplasmosis, or rubella are at risk of causing the fetus to die in the womb.
Likewise with other infections, such as malaria, syphilis, and HIV. Preeclampsia can also reduce blood flow to the fetus through the placenta, triggering IUFD.
5. Age and poor lifestyle
Another factor that increases the risk of IUFD is age-related. Pregnant women who are more than 35 years old or less than 15 years old are more susceptible to IUFD.
In addition to age, obesity and unhealthy lifestyles, such as consuming alcoholic beverages or smoking during pregnancy can also trigger IUFD.
Some experts also suggest that stillbirths or stillbirths in the womb are often caused by a combination of the above factors, such as placental disorders, maternal health, and poor lifestyles.
In the case of a miscarriage, the doctor will usually recommend a curettage procedure to remove the dead fetus. While in the case of IUFD, the fetus that has died will usually be expelled through childbirth.
If the baby has died before the due date, the doctor may perform an induction procedure to speed up the delivery process. In some cases, the doctor may also recommend a cesarean section to help deliver a baby who has IUFD.
In multiple pregnancies and one fetus has IUFD, induction of labor is generally not recommended. The doctor will examine the condition of other fetuses and recommend appropriate actions according to the condition of the mother and fetus.
Generally, keeping both fetuses in the womb until the time of delivery arrives is widely recommended by doctors.
To determine the cause of fetal death in the womb, it is necessary to carry out a physical examination, blood, ultrasound, placenta, fetal genetics, and physical examination post mortem or infant autopsy.
The death of the fetus in the womb can leave its own trauma for the mother. Usually the patient needs time to bounce back from the sadness after the loss of the fetus.
After IUFD occurs, the patient will physically experience vaginal bleeding and express milk which may be uncomfortable. To stop the production of breast milk, the doctor will give certain drugs.
Although not all cases of IUFD can be prevented, pregnant women can do several things to reduce their risk, namely:
- Quit smoking.
- Stop consuming alcoholic beverages and dangerous drugs.
- Avoid sleeping in the supine position when the gestational age enters 28 weeks or more.
- Carry out regular pregnancy check-ups with an obstetrician or midwife to monitor the health of her and the fetus
For pregnant women who are at risk of experiencing IUFD, it is advisable to consult a gynecologist. Likewise, if you find unusual signs, such as the intensity of fetal movements decreasing, you should immediately see a doctor for proper examination and treatment.