Evaluation of the Placenta in a Stillborn Fetus to Estimate the Time of Death

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The authors present a case of a presumably unknown pregnancy, in which the newborn was found dead in the bathroom. The child was considered stillborn and the death due to natural causes. The literature on estimation of the time of fetal death is reviewed. It has been reported that certain placental histological changes are useful in predicting the time of death in stillborn fetuses, but little has been published about their potential role. Furthermore, parameters evaluated by literature in examining the placenta for determining time of fetal demise in cases of stillbirth are not uniform in the few studies that have been published. We emphasize that any attempt to estimate the time of fetal death without an adequate knowledge of placental morphological changes is futile and forensically unjustifiable, and that a comprehensive placental, external, and histological examination of the fetus is still the method of choice to gain a reliable forensic answer.

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