Cause of Fetal Death: Data from the Fetal Death Report, 2014

Questions for Donna L. Hoyert, Ph.D., Health Scientist and Lead Author on “Cause of Fetal Death: Data from the Fetal Death Report, 2014

Q: Why did you conduct this study?

DH: We wanted to provide background regarding what information has become available recently through vital statistics data on the cause of fetal death. The National Vital Statistics System is an example of intergovernmental sharing of public health data, and in the United States, State laws require the reporting of fetal deaths, and Federal law mandates national collection and publication of the data. There is much we can learn from the statistics in this study.

Q: Why focus on fetal deaths of 20 weeks gestation or more in your report – versus fetal deaths of any and all gestation?

DH: Because the States typically require reporting of these events, we focused on fetal deaths of 20 weeks gestation or more. These spontaneous intrauterine deaths are sometimes referred to as stillbirths. While there are a few states that report fetal deaths at all gestation periods, consistent national data is found at 20 weeks or more.

Q: What are the most common selected causes of fetal death?

DH: There are five most common selected causes of fetal death, one of which is listed as an unspecified cause. Placenta, cord, and membrane complications is another one. There are also congenital malformations, maternal complications, and maternal conditions unrelated to pregnancy.

Q: What variations by maternal demographics, if any, did you observe in the fetal death data you examined?

DH: The same five causes of fetal death were among the most common selected causes for many maternal characteristics. The characteristics of delivery weight and gestation period were different, and for these two, diabetes mellitus emerged, and maternal complications dropped below the top five selected causes for fetuses with longer gestation and heavier delivery weights.

Q: What do you think is the most significant finding in your new study?

DH: Probably that the variations observed across maternal and fetal characteristics are consistent with those documented in other research. This represents an important expansion of what is available from vital statistics on fetal death.

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