If a fetus reaches over 20 weeks gestation but is pronounced medically deceased before it is delivered, it is referred to as fetal death. However, it is more commonly known by the term “stillbirth.” If a fetus under 20 weeks dies in the womb, it is called a miscarriage.
The vast majority of U.S. states require that the deaths of all fetuses over 20 weeks or 350 grams be reported. New York City goes a step further, requiring a report for every known fetal death. Fetal deaths are reported to the Vital Statistics Cooperative Program. From there, the reports are sent electronically to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS).
In the event of a reported fetal death, a fetal death certificate is issued. The certificate serves as a permanent legal record of the death, which can be used in a court of law, if necessary. Some states also provide a copy of the fetal death certificate to the mother of the deceased.