Game-changing research discovers the cause of stillbirth
New research has discovered that a prematurely ageing placenta can trigger stillbirth. Read on to find out more.
The death of a child is incomprehensible and unbearable for parents. When it comes to a stillborn baby, sometimes even medical experts find it tough to figure out what went wrong.
But now, new Australian research just might change this and finally give women some answers about stillbirth and why it happens.
Cause of stillbirth: the trigger
Researchers at Hunter Medical Research Institute in Australia have discovered that many stillbirths (the death of a baby at or after the 20th week of pregnancy) are caused by issues with the placenta.
"As you look around at everybody you know, you'll notice that different people age at different rates," said researcher Professor Roger Smith. "And it's almost certainly the same with the placenta. Some placentas age more rapidly than others," he explained.
According to Professor Smith, some women's placentas start to deteriorate weeks before the baby is due. When this happens, the baby is slowly but surely deprived of the oxygen and nutrients it needs to survive.
So what does this mean for pregnant mums?
Soon, a test will be available that can detect if a pregnant woman's placenta is "ageing" faster than it should.
When a placenta starts to deteriorate, it emits an enzyme called aldehyde oxidase. And measuring the quantity of this enzyme can be critical to assess the risk of stillbirth. More importantly, doctors may be able to work fast to prevent a stillbirth.
This is exactly what doctors hope to achieve with this test.
"It's possible that we'll be able to develop diagnostic tests to pick up in the mother's blood the signs of aging of the placenta, and therefore predict this devastating event so that the obstetricians can perform a caesarean section and get the baby out before the baby dies," explained Professor Smith.
The test is likely to be fully developed and available in three to five years.