In other wealthy nations, such as Norway, Sweden and Denmark, the rates of stillbirths are about half of the rate in the United States, Goldenberg said.
Goldenberg noted a stillbirth can take a psychological toll on the mother and the family.
"Every woman who is pregnant has a vision and a hope of a live baby," he said. "When a stillbirth occurs the woman and family are often devastated, but because in many places there is no recognition of the death there is none of the normal kinds of grieving that would happen if you lost a live child," he said.
"Most women view the baby as a child of theirs that happened to be born dead, not that it didn't exist," Goldenberg added. The mother and family should be encouraged to grieve for this lost life and not hide it, he said.
"When it's hidden the women doesn't have a chance to work through it," Goldenberg said.
In addition to counseling, many hospitals encourage the mother to hold the infant and name him--to make the infant real, Goldenberg said. "Family members are encouraged to acknowledge that this is a birth and a death: this was a child," he said.
Summing up, Goldenberg listed three important messages about stillbirth: it is an important pregnancy outcome that needs to be paid attention to; it is, for the most part, preventable, and "when it happens, it is not the woman's fault."
For more information on stillbirths, visit the March of Dimes.
SOURCES: Robert L. Goldenberg, M.D., professor, obstetrics and gynecology, Drexel University College of Medicine, Philadelphia; Cathy Spong, M.D., chief, Pregnancy & Perinatology Branch, U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development; April 14, 2011, The Lancet, online
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