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U to Participate in Study of Stillbirths

U to Participate in Study of Stillbirths

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Dr. Kim Mulvihill ReportingLosing a baby during pregnancy can be devastating and all too often parents don't get an explanation of what happened and live in fear of it happening again. A new study hopes to change that.

The National Institutes of Health is launching a five-year study looking at stillbirth. Five centers across the country, including the University of Utah, will be conducting the research. The goal is to do a better job of studying the problem so we can do a better job preventing it.

When Natalie Jacobs was 25-weeks along in her first pregnancy she had light bleeding so she went to her doctor.

Natalie Jacobs: "Turned on the ultrasound, couldn't see anything wrong with the placenta. He was about ready to turn off the ultrasound, and I said to him 'Is the baby sleeping? Cuz he's not moving, he's not moving very much.’"

That's when she learned her baby had died.

Natalie: "Well I started crying, and Kirk says you know ‘Why us, why is this happening to us?’"

Doctor Bob Silver specializes in high-risk pregnancies. He says there are literally hundreds of different causes of stillbirth.

Dr. Bob Silver, Univ. Utah: "But one of the most common causes is there is a problem with the DNA or the genetics of the baby. There are also cases when babies have birth defects that aren't necessarily due to a genetic problem. Another common cause of stillbirth is infections, especially viral infections can cause stillbirth."

Each year in the United States about 30,000 pregnancies end in stillbirth. The cause is determined in only about a third of cases. The NIH hopes to change that with a new study.

Dr. Silver: "Is to try to develop a comprehensive protocol to evaluate stillbirths, to do a better job of figuring out why stillbirths happen. To come up with new causes of stillbirth that are currently unrecognized, and hopefully ultimately to prevent stillbirth."

Natalie was found to have anitphospholipid syndrome, an autoimmune Condition where blood clots can form in the placenta. Low-dose heparin during pregnancy thins the blood just enough to prevent clots from forming. It worked for Natalie who now has two healthy children.

Natalie: "He was four pounds, four ounces, little; little as can be but he was just perfect and healthy and came home with me the next day. She's our little angel, and we feel very blessed and very lucky to have a boy and a girl and just have two wonderful kids."

Ideally all stillbirths would be evaluated with genetic testing, an autopsy or an MRI scan to look at the anatomy of the baby and an evaluation of the placenta.

Losing a baby is always difficult, but finding an explanation provides closure and can help prevent it from happening again.

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