Stillbirth: A Tragic Reality

Vol 6 - Issue 3 StillbirthBy Ruhie Jamshaid 

Statistics show that approximately three per cent of all births in Pakistan are stillbirths. This is a relatively astounding figure; yet, much mystery surrounds the phenomenon of stillbirth. In a third of all the stillbirths, the causes are unidentified. Since some cases might not be reported, the occurrence of stillbirths might be higher in reality. Stillbirth is technically defined as the death of a foetus during the last trimester of pregnancy, specifically in the twentieth week or later. Only fourteen per cent of stillbirths occur during delivery, whereas the majority occur before. The death of a foetus at such a late stage may prove to be far more devastating for the mother and family than a miscarriage, as the baby is almost fully developed. Since by the last trimester the mother has also felt the movements of the child, the bond between her and the child is greater, as compared to a miscarriage. 


There are several known causes of stillbirth:

Placental abruption: This is the most common cause of stillbirth, which occurs when the placenta strips away from the uterine wall resulting in the lack of oxygen for the foetus.

Chromosomal abnormalities: This is the main cause of early miscarriages. However, death of the foetus can occur at any time during the pregnancy due to chromosomal abnormalities.

Protein-S deficiency: Protein-S is a protein required to avoid blood clots. In a small percentage of pregnant women, the level of protein-S can suddenly drop during pregnancy, resulting in the clotting of blood in the umbilical cord. This can block oxygen transfer to the foetus.

Environmental factors: Malnutrition of the mother, bacterial infections (for example, listeriosis), growth retardation, cord that is tied around the neck of the foetus and physical shock can all lead to foetal death. Despite some known reasons for stillbirth, there are cases, when the cause of stillbirth remains unknown, due to no obvious signs or indications.


Pregnant women can take some precautions to lessen the possibility of stillbirth, such as balanced nutrition during pregnancy. Iodine deficiency, for example, is a known cause of stillbirth. Healthy food and good rest go a long way in safeguarding the baby.

Going for regular prenatal check-ups is also essential, especially if it is a high-risk pregnancy. Careful monitoring of a high-risk pregnancy helps to avoid stillbirth.

Monitoring the foetal movement is perhaps the best way to ensure that the baby is doing fine. After the twenty-fifth week, the pregnant mother can count the number of kicks. If ten or less kicks are recorded in a single day, help from a healthcare provider should be sought immediately.

One way to monitor the baby’s health at home is to invest in a foetal heart monitor. This allows us to ensure the presence of a heartbeat at our convenience. 


Sometimes, even despite the best efforts and care, a stillbirth can still occur. In such cases, it is important to go through the grieving period. For Muslims, having a proper burial gives the family a sense of closure. The grave of the child can serve as physical means for remembering the child. Even naming the child before burial helps the grieving family and serves in appeasing them. The family can feel comforted in the fact that they have fulfilled all their duties towards the child. Reading Surah Al-Fathiha and other Surahs of the Quran are also beneficial to the entire grieving process.

For us, as Muslims, it is important to put our faith in Allah (swt) and understand that life and death are solely in His hands. Understanding this can help us psychologically. It is also possible to try for another child, if Allah (swt) wills so. Keeping a positive outlook and faith in Allah (swt) will give the family of the deceased child the necessary strength for going through the grieving process.

A Child’s Passing Away

Vol 6 - Issue 3 A child's passing awayBy Ruhie Jamshaid

A birth of a life heralds new hope and dreams for any family. A baby is truly a gift from Allah (swt), the Almighty. Sometimes, we take this gift of life for granted and forget what a blessing it can be.

October 28, 2008, is clearly etched into my memory, because then I felt the most excruciating emotional pain. I went for a routine check-up and expected the doctor to induce me, as it was also my due date. And then I received the devastating piece of news – after carrying my baby for nine long months and feeling its movements, the baby’s heartbeat could not be detected. My baby had passed away within my womb. The doctors did not have an explanation for this. At that very moment, as a shearing pain gripped my heart, I realized that human beings are absolutely nothing before the supreme will of Allah (swt).

We are aware of Allah’s (swt) will governing our every breath. However, we often forget to remember to thank Him for our lives. I had taken good care of myself throughout the pregnancy. My gynecologist expected a smooth delivery, as there were no complications at all. But it was Allah’s (swt) decree that my child would not enter this world alive.

It was difficult to implement this simple fact in practice. It was truly time for me to display the extent of my belief in Allah (swt). As I lay there in the morose labour ward waiting to hold a child, who would not be awake or cry for my milk, tears streamed down my face. The labour was painful but surely not remotely comparable to the deep-seated emotional pain I felt within me. I kept reminding myself of the following phrase:

“And certainly, We shall test you with something of fear, hunger, loss of wealth, lives and fruits, but give glad tidings to As-Sabirin (the patient ones, etc.).Who, when afflicted with calamity, say: ‘Truly! To Allah we belong and truly, to Him we shall return.’” (Al-Baqarah 2:155-156)

It was not easy to act like that at such a time. However, I knew I simply had to put my trust in Allah (swt) and go forward through the daunting labour. And then the worst thing happened – I gave birth to my beautiful baby girl. She looked like she was in deep sleep. As I held her in my arms desperately trying to comfort her, I could only burst into tears. I wanted to hear her cry. I wanted to see her eyes spring open. But that was not to be the will of Allah (swt). I had to accept this fate.

I kissed her with promises to meet her in the Hereafter by the will of Allah (swt). As I handed her lifeless and limp body to my husband for burial, I could only console myself with the fact that my child was blessed enough to be entering Jannah.

Later that day, my husband bathed her and shrouded her in a white cloth. I did not attend the burial, but I kept imagining her lying there on the hard ground, and the thought was very unbearable. I needed to make sense of the whole thing. It was then that I read about Prophet Muhammad (sa) and the passing of his beloved son Ibrahim (rta). It was amazing to me how Prophet Muhammad (sa) had wept like any mortal holding the body of his beloved son, as he took his last breath. Even as tears flowed from his eyes, he said: “The eyes send their tears and the heart is saddened, but we do not say anything, except that which pleases our Lord. Indeed, O Ibrahim, we are bereaved by your departure from us.”

Seeing Prophet Muhammad’s (sa) sorrow, his companions reminded him of his commandment against indulging in self-pity after a death. Prophet Muhammad (sa) is reported to have answered: “I have not commanded against sadness, but against raising one’s voice in lamentation. What you see in me is the effect of the love and compassion in my heart for my lost one. Remember that whoever feels no compassion toward others, will not receive any compassion.”

(Quoted in The Life of Muhammad (Allah’s peace and blessing be upon him), By Muhammad Husayn Haykal, Translated by Ismail Razi A. Al-Faruqi, American Trush Publications, 1976)

Once again, it was easy to read about the exemplary behaviour of our great Prophet (sa) but to imbibe the same behaviour was far from easy. I reminded myself that this was a trial from Allah (swt), and sometimes trials are signs of love from the Lord, for they pull us closer to Him. This grief might actually be a gift from Allah (swt) for me. I had to be strong enough to bear it.

Explaining to my two elder children about the demise of their baby sister was not an easy task. I wondered how I should break the devastating piece of news in a way that their young minds could comprehend. Then, I remembered what some of my other friends had done, when they had lost their young children – they had simply told their children that their sibling was called by Allah (swt) to Jannah, and that he or she would be happy there, and one day they would be able to meet him or her. My children had many questions, but I used this opportunity to enhance their faith in Allah (swt). We openly talked about death but in a way a child could understand. This allowed me to introduce certain principles of Taqwa to my children.

Narrated by Abu Hurairah (rta): Allah’s Apostle (sa) said: “If Allah wants to do good to somebody, He afflicts him with trials.” (Bukhari)

All of us would also sit down as a family and read Al-Fathihah, Yasin and other Surahs of the Quran. This experience had several effects on us as all:

  • we were reminded of the futility of life. Allah (swt) can take us away, if He (swt) so decreed;
  • we became more conscious in our religious practices and reminded ourselves to obey Allah (swt) more;
  • we learnt to put our utmost trust and faith in Allah (swt).

Despite the pain of any tragedy, we must remember that other people are tested by even worse circumstances and situations. As hard as it may be, we need to practice Sabr and keep our faith in Allah (swt).

“Everyone is going to taste death, and We shall make a trial for you with evil and with good, and to Us you will be returned.” (Al-Anbiya 21:35)

This life is nothing but a test, and we need to remain steadfast in our faith and do our best to pass this test. Insha’Allah.