Researchers think they might have figured out what causes stillbirth
Giving birth to a stillborn baby is without a doubt one of the most traumatic and heartbreaking things that can happen to anyone.
And while such a tragedy often produces a whole list of questions (why? What went wrong? Will it happen again?), often even medical experts are unable to answer or give a specific reason for stillbirth.
However, now this might be about to change, as a new study from Australia has produced some important insight into what can cause the death of a baby late on in pregnancy.
According to researchers at Hunter Medical Research Institute, many stillbirths are triggered by a deteriorating placenta – as it turns out, placentas, like humans, don't all age at the same rate.
"As you look around at everybody you know, you'll notice that different people age at different rates," Professor Roger Smith explained in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. "And it's almost certainly the same with the placenta. Some placentas age more rapidly than others."
What the Australian researchers theorise, is that some placentas begin to age weeks before the woman's due date, slowly starving the foetus of nutrients and oxygen it needs to survive. And what this means, is that we might need to think differently about monitoring pregnant women differently in the weeks leading up to her due date – and certainly keeping a closer eye when anyone goes past their estimated date of delivery.
"It's possible that we'll be able to develop diagnostic tests to pick up in the mother's blood the signs of ageing of the placenta, and therefore predict this devastating event so that the obstetricians can perform a caesarean section and get the baby out before the baby dies," professor Smith explained.
The team of researchers are currently working on a test that will alert doctors to the signs of placenta deterioration weeks before the mum-to-be goes into labor.