A stillbirth happens when a fetus (unborn baby) dies while still inside the mother or dies during delivery (childbirth). It is said that the delivered baby is stillborn. Stillbirth is different from a miscarriage because a stillbirth happens after the baby has been living inside its mother 20 to 24 weeks (depending on the country). It is called a miscarriage if the baby lived inside the mother for less time.
The causes of many stillbirths are unknown, even when special tests are done to learn the cause.
- nicotine, alcohol, or drugs taken by the mother during pregnancy
- physical trauma
- radiation poisoning
- Rh disease
- umbilical cord problems
The number of stillbirths in the United States is about 1 in 115 births, which is about 26,000 a year, or one every 20 minutes. In developing countries, where medical care is not as advanced or good, the number of stillbirths is higher.
The death of the baby is usually treated like the death of an older baby. The family may have a funeral. The body of the dead baby can be buried or cremated (burned). In some places, there are special places for putting the bodies or the ashes of stillborn babies.
The mother may be ill. Her body may be hurt from having the baby.
Legal definitions of stillbirth
In the UK, any baby that leaves its mother's body after 24 weeks and does not show any signs of life is called a stillbirth. The mother or father must tell the government about the baby. A Stillbirth Certificate is given to the family. 
In Australia, any stillborn fetus that weighs more than 400 grams and lived in the mother for more than 20 weeks must be reported to the government.
The United States does not have a formal definition of stillborn babies.  All pregnancies are legally called either: live birth, fetal death, or induced termination of pregnancy (abortion). The law does not have a difference between a stillbirth and a miscarriage. However, it is recommended to register infants who weighed over 350 grams or who lived over 19 weeks inside the mother before dying.
Footnotes and references
- Pregnancy Institute founded by Dr. Jason H. Collins, OB/GYN specializes in umbilical cord research
- March of Dimes: Quick reference and fact sheet
- Investigating perinatal death: a review of the options when autopsy consent is refused.
- Stillbirth at h2g2 - written by a bereaved mother
- The Wisconsin Stillbirth Service Program (WiSSP), a branch of the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Clinical Genetics Center. One of the foremost authorities on the causes of stillbirth and responsible for many stillbirth evaluation protocols, including the widespread use of the Kleihauer-Betke test in deciding whether Rh disease is to blame for a stillbirth.
- First-person story of one woman's journey through stillbirth