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Birth weight differences between preterm stillbirths and live births: analysis of population-based studies from the U.S. and Sweden

Xun Zhang1, KS Joseph3, Sven Cnattingius4 and Michael S Kramer12*

Author affiliations

1 Departments of Pediatrics, McGill University Faculty of Medicine, Montreal, Canada

2 Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Occupational Health, McGill University Faculty of Medicine, Montreal, Canada

3 Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Women’s Hospital and Health Centre of British Columbia, and School of Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

4 Clinical Epidemiology Unit, Department of Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden

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Citation and License

BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 2012, 12:119  doi:10.1186/1471-2393-12-119

Published: 30 October 2012



Many stillbirths show evidence of fetal growth restriction, and most occur at preterm gestational age. The objective of this study is to compare birth weights at preterm gestational ages between live births and stillbirths, and between those occurring before or during labour.


Based on singleton births from the United States (U.S.) 2003–2005 (n=902,491) and Sweden 1992–2001 (n=946,343), we compared birth weights between singleton live births and stillbirths at 24–36 completed weeks of gestation from the U.S. and at 28–42 completed weeks from Sweden.


In both the U.S. and Sweden, stillbirth weight-for-gestational-age z-scores were at least one standard deviation lower than live birth z-scores at all preterm gestational ages (GA). In Sweden, no birth weight difference was observed between antepartum and intrapartum stillbirths at preterm GAs, whereas birth weights among intrapartum stillbirths were similar to those among live births at 37–42 weeks.


Birth weights observed at preterm gestation are abnormal, but preterm stillbirths appear to be more growth-restricted than preterm live birth. Similar birth weights among ante- and intrapartum preterm stillbirths suggest serious fetal compromise before the onset of labor.

Stillbirth; Preterm birth; Fetal growth; Intrauterine growth restriction