Fetal Demise (IUFD)

Definition - What does Fetal Demise (IUFD) mean?

Fetal demise is a term generally used to describe an intrauterine fetal death that occurs after 20 weeks of gestation. Prior to 20 weeks of gestation, the death of the fetus is referred to as a miscarriage.

Fetal demise is also called intrauterine death, intrauterine fetal demise (IUFD), fetal death, intrauterine fetal death, and stillbirth.

FertilitySmarts explains Fetal Demise (IUFD)

The primary symptom of fetal demise is decreased fetal movement. An inability to hear the fetal heartbeat is suggestive of fetal demise, but an ultrasound must be performed by a health care provider in order to confirm the fetal death. During the ultrasound, the fetal heart is visualized and a lack of movement indicates death.

Once diagnosed, a woman's health care provider will advise her whether it is safe to wait until the body spontaneously expels the fetus or if induction of labor is necessary. In most cases, the recommended treatment is the induction of labor and delivery of the fetus. Some women wish to begin induction immediately, while others want to wait a period of hours to days until they are emotionally prepared. It is often unsafe for a woman to wait for her body to naturally terminate the pregnancy, as this waiting period could cause significant bleeding.

The cause of fetal demise is often unknown. It may result from an abnormality in the placenta later in pregnancy. Risk factors for stillbirths include the following:

  • Advanced maternal age
  • Maternal obesity
  • Maternal smoking
  • Pre-existing diabetes
  • Pre-existing hypertension
  • Placental abruption
  • A fetus that is small for gestational age
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