Some 26,000 women in the United States give birth to a stillborn child each year. It’s a harrowing experience for parents, and many eventually want to know what went wrong, in part to avoid going through a similar experience in the future. But in the days after delivery, when tests to search for a cause must be conducted, doctors are often hesitant to suggest them, and grief-stricken parents often reluctant to permit them.
A rigorous study released on Thursday found that two tests are particularly effective in determining the cause of a stillbirth, a death of a fetus at or after 20 weeks of gestation. An examination of the placenta helped find a cause in about two-thirds of stillbirths, and a fetal autopsy helped in roughly 40 percent of cases, researchers reported. Genetic testing was the third most useful test, helping to pinpoint a cause 12 percent of the time.
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