Neuropathological examinations were carried out at necropsy on 274 cases of intrauterine death or neonatal death at or before three days after birth. Fifty six (20.4%) subjects had evidence of prenatal ischaemic brain damage. On review of the maternal case notes to ascertain antenatal clinical associations there was an increased incidence of intrauterine growth retardation, either based on birth weight for gestational age (odds ratio (OR) 2.0; 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.1 to 3.7) or diagnosed antenatally (OR 2.7; 95% CI 1.3 to 5.6). Oligohydramnios was also more common (OR 2.9; 95% CI 1.2 to 7.0). The association of intrauterine growth retardation and white matter damage remained after excluding fetuses with a major congenital anomaly (OR 2.4; 95% CI 1.1 to 5.1). The findings suggest that chronic intrauterine hypoxia may be associated with damage to cerebral white matter among fetuses and infants who die. The relation between ischaemic white matter damage and cerebral palsy among survivors remains speculative.
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