Preventing stillbirth 

Not all stillbirths can be prevented. However, there are some things you can do to reduce your risk.

These include:

  • stopping smoking
  • avoiding alcohol and drugs during pregnancy – these can seriously affect your baby's development, as well as increasing the risk of miscarriage and stillbirth
  • attending all your antenatal appointments so that midwives can monitor the growth and wellbeing of your baby
  • making sure you're a healthy weight before trying to get pregnant
  • protecting yourself against infections (see causes of stillbirth) and avoiding certain foods
  • reporting any tummy pain or vaginal bleeding that you have to your midwife on the same day
  • being aware of your baby's movements and reporting any concerns you have to your midwife straight away
  • reporting any itching to your midwife

Some of these are discussed in more detail below. 

Your weight

Obesity increases the risk of stillbirth.

The best way to protect your health and your baby's wellbeing is to lose weight before becoming pregnant. By reaching a healthy weight, you cut your risk of all the problems associated with obesity in pregnancy.

If you're obese when you become pregnant, your midwife or GP can give you advice about improving your health while pregnant.

Eating healthily and activities such as walking and swimming are good for all pregnant women. However, if you weren't active before becoming pregnant, consult your midwife or doctor before starting a new exercise programme while you're pregnant.

Read more about obesity and pregnancy and exercise during pregnancy.

Monitoring your baby's movements

You'll usually start feeling some movement between weeks 16 and 20 of your pregnancy, although it can sometimes be later than this. These movements may be felt as a kick, flutter, swish or roll. 

The number of movements tends to increase until 32 weeks of pregnancy and then stay about the same, although the type of movement may change as you get nearer to your due date. You should continue to feel your baby move up to and during labour.

If you notice your baby is moving less than usual, or if you've noticed a change in the pattern of movements, it may be the first sign that your baby is unwell. You should contact your midwife or local maternity unit immediately so your baby's wellbeing can be assessed.

There's no specific number of movements that's considered to be normal. What's important is noticing and telling your midwife about any reduction or change in your baby's normal movements.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) has produced a leaflet called Your baby's movements in pregnancy (PDF, 138kb) which you may find useful.

Avoiding certain foods

Some foods should be avoided during pregnancy. For example, you shouldn't eat some types of fish or cheese, and you should make sure that all meat and poultry is cooked thoroughly.

Read more about the foods to avoid during pregnancy.

Attending antenatal appointments and reporting any concerns

During your antenatal appointments, your midwife or GP will monitor your baby's development. They'll monitor your baby's growth and position.

You'll also be offered tests, including blood pressure tests and urine tests. These are used to detect any illnesses or conditions, such as pre-eclampsia, that may cause complications for you or your baby. Any necessary treatment can be provided promptly and efficiently.

Read more about antenatal care.


Page last reviewed: 03/02/2015

Next review due: 03/02/2017