What Is Intrauterine Fetal Demise?


When a fetus dies in utero during the second trimester after the 20th week, the death is referred to as intrauterine fetal demise (IUFD). When a fetal death occurs before 20 weeks of gestation, the death is called a miscarriage. There are several risk factors for IUFD that can be screened, diagnosed, and monitored to prevent intrauterine fetal demise from occurring. If intrauterine fetal demise results because of inadequate screening, diagnosis, or monitoring, the parents might have a viable malpractice claim against the doctor. Here is some information about intrauterine fetal demise from the attorneys at Raynes & Lawn.

Causes Of Intrauterine Fetal Demise

In some cases, it might be difficult to determine the cause of intrauterine fetal demise. However, both the mother and baby should be thoroughly screened and monitored to identify and diagnose any conditions that could be risk factors for IUFD.

Some of the causes of intrauterine fetal demise include the following:

  • Placenta problems preventing the fetus from properly developing
  • Genetic abnormalities
  • Umbilical cord problems
  • Ruptured uterus causing severe bleeding

It is not always possible to prevent intrauterine fetal demise. However, there are specific risk factors that increase the chance that it will occur.

Risk Factors For Intrauterine Fetal Demise

When the cause of intrauterine fetal demise can be determined, the cause generally falls into one of three categories, including fetal pathology, maternal pathology, or placental pathology. Fetal pathology refers to an issue with the fetus and its ability to properly develop, which results in fetal death.

Some of the types of fetal issues that can cause problems with the fetus’s ability to develop include the following:

  • More than one fetus sharing the uterus
  • Genetic abnormalities
  • Contracting certain types of infection from the mother
  • Slow growth

Intrauterine fetal demise can also be caused by a problem with the mother’s health. However, stillbirths are less frequently caused by maternal pathology than fetal pathology.

Some of the causes of intrauterine fetal demise that are related to the mother’s health include the following:

  • Pregnancy that lasts more than 42 weeks
  • Uncontrolled diabetes
  • Advanced maternal age
  • Eclampsia or preeclampsia
  • Blood type different than the fetus’s blood type
  • Ruptured uterus
  • Smoking
  • Weight problems

Placental pathology is the leading cause of intrauterine fetal demise, accounting for approximately 65% of cases in which the cause of death is known.

Some of the placental problems that can cause IUFD to include the following:

  • Placental abruption
  • Umbilical cord detachment
  • Premature membrane rupture
  • Hemorrhage
  • Placental insufficiency

These risk factors do not directly cause intrauterine fetal demise, but they can lead to fetal death. This makes it important for doctors to carefully monitor mothers and fetuses throughout pregnancy.

Symptoms Of IUFD

Some of the common symptoms that might indicate intrauterine fetal demise include the following:

  • Lack of fetal movement or kicking
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • High fever or infection

How Is IUFD Diagnosed?

Doctors use several tests to diagnose IUFD. An ultrasound might be performed to check for fetal movement and life. A doctor might also use a fetal heart monitor for 20 minutes to check whether the fetus has an appropriate heart rate. A doctor might also conduct an umbilical artery doppler velocimetry test to check to see whether blood is properly flowing through the umbilical cord. Following a stillbirth, doctors try to determine its cause. If a cause can be determined, it might provide information about what to watch for in the mother’s future pregnancies.

Doctors will test for fetal, placental, and maternal problems, so the mother will undergo several tests to check whether any underlying, treatable conditions can be addressed. The doctor will also examine the placenta. Finally, if the parents give their consent, an autopsy of the fetus will be performed.

Treatment When IUFD Has Occurred

When a doctor diagnoses intrauterine fetal demise and tells the mother, the doctor will recommend the mother terminate her pregnancy. Parents can wait until they are emotionally prepared before the mother has her labor induced. If the mother is carrying multiple fetuses, she might wait until the other fetuses are fully developed.

When the mother is prepared, one of the following treatment options can be performed:

  • Administering medicine to induce labor and deliver the fetus naturally
  • Inserting a catheter with medicine to begin contractions
  • Dilating the cervix to remove the fetus

Leaving a deceased fetus in the womb can cause the following complications:

  • Infection
  • Blood clots
  • Pain
  • Heavy bleeding
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea

Inducing labor carries the following risks:

  • Uterine damage
  • Infection
  • Heavy bleeding requiring transfusions

After a stillbirth, the parents will need to have counseling and support to deal with grief. Many mothers who experience intrauterine fetal demise experience feelings of anger, guilt, sadness, and helplessness. Many parents keep mementos to help them cope with the loss of their babies, including a handprint or footprint, photos, or locks of hair. Talking to friends and family members and going to support groups can also help parents to process their grief.

Talk To A Birth Trauma Attorney At Raynes & Lawn

In some cases, intrauterine fetal demise results because of mistakes made by doctors. For example, if your doctor failed to properly monitor you and diagnose a risk factor for IUFD, it could be considered to be medical negligence. If you believe that your doctor failed to meet the expected standard of care and negligently contributed to your pregnancy loss, you should speak to a child injury lawyer at Raynes & Lawn. Call us today for a free case evaluation at 1-800-535-1797.



Get Help from an Experienced Injury Attorney

If you have lost your limb in an accident caused by someone else or while working on the job, you should speak to an experienced injury lawyer at Raynes & Lawn. Our team of attorneys is experienced in handling catastrophic injury claims, and we work hard to help our clients recover maximal compensation for their injuries and losses. Call us today at 1-800-535-1797 to request a free consultation.

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