Basic Information about Pregnancy Loss and Infant Death

Defining the Terms

The terms "stillbirth," "miscarriage," and "neonatal death" are often misunderstood if they are understood at all. 

  • Miscarriage is an early pregnancy loss, occurring before 20 weeks gestation. (United States)
  • Terminating a wanted pregnancy for medical reasons usually happens during the 2nd trimester and a baby has received a diagnosis of a condition with poor prognosis. The parents have to make the decision whether to continue the pregnancy. This also occurs when a rare pregnancy or other health complications pose a notable threat to the mother's life if she continues the pregnancy.
  • Stillbirth ("fetal death" or "fetal demise") is the birth of an infant that has died in the womb after 20 weeks of gestation. (United States)
  • Neonatal death is when a baby dies in the first 28 days of life.


  • 1 in 4 mothers report experiencing perinatal loss—however, the number may be as high as 50% (Jaffe & Diamond, 2011). Approximately 24,000 babies annually will be stillborn (>20 weeks gestation), and an additional 23,000 infants will die within the first 28 days of life (MacDorman & Gregory, 2015). 
  • Perinatal loss occurs 10 times more often than deaths related to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017).