Skip to main content

We use cookies to help us improve your experience and to provide services like web chat. We also use cookies to measure the effectiveness of public health campaigns and understand how people use the website.

To find out more about cookies and how we use them, please see our privacy policy.

Stillbirth: Diagnosis and causes

How stillbirth is diagnosed

The death of your baby in the womb will be detected on ultrasound scan. When the scan is done, it is possible to see that the heart is not beating.

Sometimes the person doing the scan will ask for a second opinion to confirm that the heart is not beating.

You are entitled to ask for a second opinion or another scan to confirm your baby’s death.

Causes of stillbirth

One of the first questions you might ask is “why did my baby die?”.

Sometimes (in about one third of cases) it is not possible to explain why your baby has died.

You and your partner will be offered tests to try and find out.

Possible causes include:

  • Your baby has not been growing properly.
  • Complications from pre-eclampsia.
  • Complications from gestational diabetes.
  • Infection.
  • Abnormal development of your baby.
  • The placenta separates from the womb too early.
  • Problems with the umbilical cord.
  • In rare situations, babies may die during labour. This is called intrapartum stillbirth.

page last reviewed: 28/03/2019
next review due: 28/03/2022