When you first find out you are pregnant, it is exciting and scary at the same time, the task of nurturing a growing human being from a tiny embryo into a fully developed baby can seem overwhelming. Sadly, for a small number of New Zealand women every year, this joy will be cut short prematurely by the pain of pregnancy loss.
In New Zealand, a pregnancy which is lost prior to 20 weeks gestation, or which results in the birth of an infant who weighs less than 400g, is termed Miscarriage. It is estimated that up to one in five pregnancies may end in miscarriage, some before the mother is even aware that she is pregnant. The highest risk period for miscarriage occurs between 4-6 weeks gestation, and the risk drops dramatically after 13 weeks gestation. However a small number of women will experience what is termed Late Miscarriage, a miscarriage which occurs after 13 weeks gestation but before 20 weeks gestation. For more information, see our section on Miscarriage here.
The loss of a baby after 20 weeks gestation, or who has a birthweight of more than 400g, is termed Stillbirth. It is believed that around 1% of pregnancies in New Zealand will end with the birth of a baby who is not born alive, often described as 'born sleeping'. In some cases the loss is the result of a congenital abnormality with the baby, or a pre-existing medical condition in the mother such as Incompetent Cervix, however in a large number of cases the cause of the baby's death remains a mystery. To read about two womens' experiences of stillbirth, see our feature Born Sleeping here. To contact SANDS (Stillbirth and Newborn Death Support), see here. To visit the Stillbirth and Baby Loss Support section of our Message Boards, see here.