Pregnancy and Infant Loss
23 Dec 2016
The loss of a baby during pregnancy remains a sad reality for many families. Learn about pregnancy and infant loss and about Harper’s story, a story about a family who lost a child through stillbirth. You can also learn what CDC is doing to understand the preventable causes of stillbirth.
What is Stillbirth?
A stillbirth is the death or loss of a baby before or during delivery. Both miscarriage and stillbirth describe pregnancy loss, but they differ according to when the loss occurs. In the United States, a miscarriage is usually defined as loss of a baby before the 20th week of pregnancy, and a stillbirth is loss of a baby after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
How Many Babies Are Stillborn?
About 1% of all pregnancies are stillborn, and each year about 24,000 babies are stillborn in the United States.1 That is about the same as the number of babies who die each year during the first year of life. It is also more than 10 times as many deaths as the number that occur from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).2
Kari will never forget the day that she and her husband, Marc, received the devastating news that would change their lives forever. Kari had a perfectly normal pregnancy for 39 weeks. But during a routine visit with her doctor at 39 ½ weeks of pregnancy, they found out that their daughter, Harper, didn't have a heartbeat. Kari's due date was just three days away.
Kari and Marc were in complete shock—shattered and utterly heartbroken. Early the next morning, after a very long and sleepless night, they arrived at the hospital where Kari was induced into labor to give birth to a baby they could not bring home. Fourteen hours later, Kari delivered Harper Elizabeth. Harper was 7 pounds and 8 ounces with a head full of black hair. She had Kari's lips and long fingers and her daddy's cheeks and nose. Kari and Marc loved her so deeply. They were able to spend a few brief but precious days with Harper in the hospital before they had to say goodbye forever to their beautiful baby girl.
Kari does work within her community to help raise awareness about stillbirth. Doing acts of service in Harper's honor helped Kari tremendously in her healing process. Last year, Kari and Marc welcomed their next child, their rainbow baby, into their family. They named him Colton. Kari is grateful each and every day for the gift of their daughter. They think of her daily, and they will carry Harper in their hearts for the rest of their lives until they meet again.
CDC thanks Kari and her family for sharing this personal story.
What can be done?
CDC works to learn more about who might have a stillbirth and why. CDC does this by tracking how often stillbirth occurs and researching what causes stillbirth and how to prevent it. Knowledge about the potential causes of stillbirth can be used to develop recommendations, policies, and services to help prevent stillbirth. While we continue to learn more about stillbirth, much work remains. Stillbirth is not often viewed as a public health issue, so increased awareness is key. Additionally, healthcare providers need increased training in using stillbirth evaluation guidelines, providing access to grief counseling, and discussing with families why a stillborn evaluation is important. To learn more about CDC's activities, visit the Stillbirth CDC Activities page.
If you or someone you know has experienced stillbirth, visit our resource page to find organizations that may offer support.
- Macdorman MF, Gregory ECW. Fetal and perinatal mortality, United States, 2013. National vital statistics reports; vol 64 no 8. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2015. Read report[1.42 MB]
- Kochanek KD, Murphy SL, Xu J, Arias E. Mortality in the United States, 2013. NCHS data brief. 2014 Dec; 178(178):1-8. Read report[215 KB]