Modifiable risk factors for stillbirth: a literature review

Smoking, alcohol, illicit drugs and medical drugs, high BMI, attendance at antenatal care and sleeping position are the main modifiable risk factors with a behavioural component that have been associated with a higher risk of stillbirth.

Tamara Escañuela Sánchez, Sarah Meaney, Keelin O'Donoghue
Journal Name
Journal Article
Full Citation
Escañuela Sánchez T, Meaney S, O'Donoghue K. Modifiable risk factors for stillbirth: a literature review. Midwifery. 2019;79:102539.
Link to Publication


In Ireland, a baby that dies in the womb or during labour after the 24th week of pregnancy, or that is born weighing 500 grams or more is called a stillbirth. Having a stillborn baby has a wide range of consequences that can affect parents, family and the healthcare professionals involved. Researchers have observed that some factors are associated with a higher risk of having a stillborn baby like for example issues related to the mom’s health or living conditions or the baby’s health. In addition to that, there are also some behaviours that mothers can do that also increase the risk of stillbirth. The aim of this study was to understand better what those behaviours are. We found that the behaviours that have been associated with stillbirth are smoking, alcohol use, illicit drug use, not engaging in activities that help control weight gain or help loose weight, lack of attendance at medical appointments during pregnancy, and certain sleeping positions. Since we know that these behaviours increase the risk of stillbirth, we are making efforts to establish and design interventions to target them and help women have healthy pregnancies and babies.

Pregnancy Loss Research Group

Pregnancy Loss Research Group, Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, University College Cork, Fifth Floor, Cork University Maternity Hospital, Wilton, Cork, T12 YE02, Ireland,