If a Mother Is Pregnant and Dies, How Long Can the Baby Survive?

Perhaps you are wondering what happens to the baby after a pregnant woman dies. Once the blood circulation in the mother’s body stops, the baby is on borrowed time.

If a mother is pregnant and dies then the baby has less than 30 minutes to live or die.

If she dies, the baby has to be saved through other means like early delivery through cesarean section and placed in an incubator.

Incubators are only available in well-equipped hospitals. Therefore, if the mother dies at home and the nearest hospital is far away, the baby will die within an hour.

The baby can only survive if:

  • The mother dies in a hospital and the baby is immediately delivered via surgery. 
  • The baby is old enough to survive outside the womb
  • The baby has no complications
  • The pregnant mother doesn’t die devastatingly like a car accident damaging the womb or any other freak accident.

In such a situation, the doctors can keep the pregnant mother’s body alive using medical equipment and technology until the baby is ripe for delivery.

If a mother is pregnant and dies how long can the baby survive, is a common question for the parents where the mother is ill.

If a mother is pregnant and dies how long can the baby survive?

It depends on whether the baby is healthy and in the final trimester.  For instance, if a pregnant mother in early pregnancy dies, the baby automatically dies.

If a mother is pregnant and dies how long can the baby survive

However, if the baby is late-term there is a high chance that the doctors can save the baby. How?

According to National Library of Medicine:

Brain death remains a hopeless condition for patients, but a brain‐dead woman may still be able to naturally deliver a healthy baby.

Kinoshita Y, Kamohara H, Kotera A, Sagishima K, Tashiro T, Niimori D. Healthy baby delivered vaginally from a brain-dead mother. Acute Med Surg. 2014 Dec 15;2(3):211-213. doi: 10.1002/ams2.95. PMID: 29123724; PMCID: PMC5667260.

However, it involves keeping the mother on life support to ensure the heartbeats. 

Doctors can keep a dead mother alive until the baby can be safely delivered. The baby remains in the womb of the dead mother. It has happened several times. Like in the case given below.

In 1993, Trisha Marshall, a pregnant mother was shot dead in the US, but the doctors worked tirelessly and delivered a bouncing baby body about 100 days later.  She died when she was 17 weeks pregnant but the baby was saved. The doctors kept the fetus alive in her womb for the next three months.  There have been similar cases in the past. It was a medical miracle.

Like in 2016, Frankielen da Silva Zampoli Paditha at 21 years died while nine weeks pregnant. Doctors kept her body alive for 123 days, the longest so far until they were able to safely deliver healthy twins via cesarean section.

The babies had marginal hope of survival after the pregnant mother died which makes it a medical miracle. The mother died of a stroke in Brazil but her twins survived. The babies were delivered healthy as premature births weighing 1.3 kg and 1.4 kg. It was an another medical miracle success story.

There are circumstances when the baby may die like if there is a bacterial infection that goes up the vaginal canal into the uterus. It results in stillbirth babies even when the mother dies. 

How long can a baby survive in the womb if the mother dies?

After a mother’s death, how long can a baby survive, depends on its age in the womb. If a baby’s age is under 12 weeks in womb, the chance of survival is the lowest. Likewise, in the premature baby cases where baby is 30 to 36 weeks gestation, the mortality rate is around 80%. Furthermore, where the babies pass the 37 to 41 weeks gestation, the baby has a chance to live of 50%.

The World Health Organization estimates that almost 300,000 women died from pregnancy-related causes in 2017. That’s 808 women every day.

As per WHO reports. From 2000 to 2017, the maternal mortality ratio (Number of maternal deaths per 100,000 live births) decreased by about 38% worldwide.

Additionally, in low and lower middle-income country, maternal deaths rate is 94%.

Besides, almost 1% fetal death or stillbirth happens in US from all pregnancy. So, it is also important to new pregnant women about the reasons of unborn baby die.

Who are the high-risk groups of pregnancy deaths?

Pregnant adolescents are at a high risk of dying during childbirth.  WHO findings show that women between 15-19 years are highly likely to die during childbirth. 

The main causes of death are obstructed labor and excessive bleeding. Their bodies have difficulty adjusting to childbirth which is attributed to the fact that they are mostly unplanned pregnancies. Such pregnant mother deaths kill the baby in the process. So, the baby dies with the mother.

There are times when it’s difficult to deduce the cause of death of the pregnant mother. However, the CDC attributes pregnancy death to the following factors:

  • Underlying cardiovascular disease
  • Infection
  • Excessive bleeding after childbirth
  • A heart muscle disease results in difficulty pumping blood to the rest of the body
  • Medical conditions that reflect pre-existing illnesses
  • High blood pressure complications during pregnancy
  • Stroke
  • Blood clots cause blockage in the pulmonary artery in the lungs
  • Complications from administered anesthesia
  • Complications caused by fetal materials, or amniotic fluid entering the bloodstream of the mother. Medical care providers monitor pregnant mothers with these conditions more closely to ensure everything goes well.


If a pregnant woman dies what happens to the baby?

A woman who is pregnant and dies will have a miscarriage. The baby will not survive in maximum cases. Moreover, if the mother dies while pregnant, the baby will be born but die shortly after birth.
The length of the baby’s survival depends on the gestational age of the fetus. If the fetus is less than 20 weeks, it will not survive. If it is between 30 and 36 weeks, it may survive.

Most of case where if a pregnant woman dies what happens to the baby is the top concern. Although the baby has less then 30 minutes to survive after its mothers death, if medical team can take immediate steps they have some chances to save the baby.

The umbilical cord oxygen providing can be bring out a positive result. Undoubtedly, it you want to save the baby’s life, you need to bring it as soon as possible.

If a woman dies while pregnant what happens to the baby?

In maximum, baby can’t survive. Even though, the baby may survive if the mother dies during labor, but this is rare.
If the woman dies, the baby will either die or survive. In fact, the fetus will not receive oxygen and nutrients from its mother’s blood. Without these factors, it is likely that the fetus will die.

If a pregnant woman dies do they remove the baby?

It will depend on the developmental stage of the unborn baby when the mother dies. If a pregnant woman dies, doctors try to save the baby by delivering it through an emergency C-section.

In this regard, to save the baby, the umbilical cord provides oxygen and nutrients to the infant–once it has stopped supplying life-sustaining through blood. For this, the doctors can delay delivery for about half an hour in some cases.

Final thoughts

It’s a sad thing when a pregnant woman dies along with the baby. Medical care providers are often left with the difficult situation of figuring out how to keep the baby alive and deliver it safely. Many medical miracles have happened here such as coma patients delivering, or dead women delivering healthy babies. 

Therefore, it’s possible for a baby to survive upon the death of a pregnant woman. However, factors like appropriate medical care and staffing are crucial to that outcome. Chances of survival depend on whether there is an infection, excessive blood loss, or availability of appropriate media equipment. Experience of attending physicians is a key factor too. Feel free to ask questions if any.

Sarah, a health writer and editor since 2014, is an adoring wife and dedicated mother to 2 daughters and 1 son. As the creator of Babies Plannet, she combines her extensive expertise with her maternal dedication to provide essential care and safety advice for infants, nurturing their well-being and happiness. Her writing explores topics like fitness, pregnancy, and women's healthy lifestyles.

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