Families often in the dark about fetal deaths
The death of a fetus in utero is a devastating and confusing time for a family, particularly when the cause is unknown. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports that there were 3,176 fetal deaths after 20 weeks of gestation in New York State between 2011 and 2013. The National Survey for Family Growth, conducted by the CDC, states that there are in excess of 1 million fetal deaths each year in the United States. Little is understood about these losses, as the majority of research and resources have focused on infant mortality.
There are few standards in place for assessing the cause of stillbirth. According to Medscape, as many as 60 percent of fetal deaths have no definitively identifiable cause. This may be largely due to the fact that the etiology of the loss, or what actually causes it, is often determined by opinion rather than by medical testing.
If no further examination is conducted at the time of the loss, reaching a precise conclusion as to the reason for the death becomes difficult. The family will have no way to understand if the death was due to a congenital defect, if the fetus suffered from an undiagnosed condition, or if medical intervention could have prevented the loss.
Testing can determine if a condition such as an undiagnosed infection was responsible for fetal demise. The U.S. Department of Health and human services states that mismanagement of conditions such as diabetes can contribute to stillbirth as well. As difficult as the decision may be, family members who insist on an evaluation may be enlightened as to the reason for their loss.