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Amanda Holden suffers stillbirth tragedy

The actress Amanda Holden is expected to undergo a series of tests to try to determine what caused the stillbirth of her baby seven months into her pregnancy.

The 39-year-old and her husband, Chris Hughes, were said to be devastated by the loss, which comes after Ms Holden suffered a miscarriage last year. Married two years ago, the couple have a five-year-old daughter, Lexi.

A stillbirth is the loss of a baby beyond 24 weeks of pregnancy. Before 24 weeks, it is classed as a miscarriage. Although less common than miscarriage, stillbirth affects around 3,500 pregnancies in the UK each year.

The rate has fallen by around 20 per cent since the 1970s, but this is largely due to improvements to care during labour, such as when the umbilical cord becomes wrapped around the baby's neck. Donald Peebles, a spokesman for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and a consultant at University College London Hospitals NHS Trust, said: "This is a desperately sad event. Everyone must feel very sorry for Amanda Holden and her husband." He declined to speculate on what may have caused Ms Holden's stillbirth, but in general, stillbirths are often due to complications with the placenta, which means the baby does not grow properly, he said.

"Having a stillbirth doesn't mean you can't have a normal pregnancy next time. Very often, they are one-off events. A woman's chances of having a baby are still quite high, though fertility does fall with age and the risk of abnormalities in the baby increases. The message is: don't give up hope."

Some causes were recurring and required investigation. As well as placental problems, infection, illnesses such as diabetes or pre-eclampsia, and birth defects, may all cause a stillbirth. Amanda Holden's agent, Alison Griffin, confirmed the stillbirth at the weekend. The star had gone to the West Middlesex University Hospital in Isleworth last Tuesday after the baby stopped moving, and it was later stillborn. Ms Griffin, said the couple were "utterly devastated". "Amanda was closely monitored throughout her pregnancy and it is not yet known what went wrong," she said.

The couple announced the pregnancy only in January, when Ms Holden was six months pregnant. Arriving at the Britain's Got Talent auditions in Cardiff, she said: "This is the first time I have properly shown my bump in public. I'm feeling fantastic."

Amanda Holden's loss follows that of Lily Allen, the singer, whose baby was stillborn last October, when she was six months pregnant. The 25-year-old pop star had an earlier miscarriage in December 2007 when four months pregnant.

Case study: stillbirths - 'I wondered what I had done wrong'

Kerry Dutton's son Luke was stillborn at 30 weeks in June 2009. She and her husband Gavin, from Chichester, have a daughter, Millie, three, and Oscar, eight months.

"The day before Luke was born, doctors had been unable to find his heartbeat. I felt horrendous. I wondered what I'd done wrong: had I run too fast? Eaten something wrong? At the same time, I didn't want my son to be born, because I wanted to see him smile, hear him say my name, see him grow up and get married, so I didn't want to see him straight away. I wanted to keep hoping.

We had to go home, and come back the next day to be given the pills to induce our son. Millie wasn't even two at the time and needed looking after. We explained we weren't crying because of her, but were sad because Luke had died and gone to heaven. The labour took 18 hours and the family came to see Luke, to hold him. Millie has a photo on her wall of Luke with Barney the teddy bear, her gift to him.

For Luke's funeral, we had a celebration on the beach with friends and family, then had a private cremation. We still don't know why it happened, just that 80 per cent of my placenta had wasted. Afterwards, being pregnant with Oscar was the hardest thing in the world. So many times, when I couldn't feel him moving, I'd rush to hospital and have the heartbeat monitors put on me. I felt so responsible. The relief when Oscar was born screaming was unbelievable."

Genevieve Roberts