Women with diabetes have increased stillbirth risk. Although the underlying pathophysiological processes are poorly understood, stillbirth is frequently related to abnormal placental structure and function.


To investigate placental morphology and cellular characteristics in the placentas of women with diabetes who had stillbirths and stillbirths of unexplained cause.


Placentas from women with uncomplicated live births, livebirths in women with diabetes, unexplained stillbirths, and stillbirths related to diabetes (n = 10/group) underwent clinical histopathologic assessment and were also investigated using immunohistochemical staining to quantify syncytial nuclear aggregates, proliferation, trophoblast area, vascularization, T cells, placental macrophages (Hofbauer cells), and the receptor for advanced glycation end products.


Ki67+ cells were decreased in unexplained stillbirths compared with live births in women with diabetes. Both stillbirth groups had increased cytokeratin 7+/nuclear area compared with controls. Blood vessels/villi were decreased in unexplained stillbirth compared with live births from women with diabetes. Compared with uncomplicated controls, CD163+ macrophages were increased in live births in women with diabetes and unexplained stillbirths, and further increased in stillbirths related to diabetes. There was no change in CD3+ T cells or syncytial nuclear aggregates. Receptor for advanced glycation end products–positive cells were decreased in both stillbirth groups compared with diabetes-related live births. Co-localization of receptor for advanced glycation end products in macrophages was increased in both stillbirth groups compared with live birth groups.


Stillbirths related to diabetes exhibit placental phenotypic differences compared with live births. Further investigation of these parameters may provide understanding of the pathologic mechanisms of stillbirth and aid the development of stillbirth prevention strategies.

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Author notes

The authors have no relevant financial interest in the products or companies described in this article.