The loss of your baby

Some parents will have to cope with the loss of their baby. This is usually a result of miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, stillbirth or neonatal death. This can be an extremely difficult time and you will need help to understand what has happened and to deal with the loss.

Miscarriage, stillbirth and ectopic pregnancy

The most common reasons for a woman to lose her baby are miscarriage, stillbirth and ectopic pregnancy.

Coping with the loss of your baby

It is shocking to lose your baby during pregnancy or shortly after birth. Both you and your partner are likely to experience a range of emotions that can come and go unpredictably. These can include disbelief, guilt, anger and grief.

Many women think they can hear their baby crying and it is not uncommon for mothers to think they can still feel their baby kicking inside. The grief is usually most intense in the early months after the loss, but can persist for some time.

Some parents find it helpful to hold a funeral for their child or to make some memories of their baby. For example, they may wish to see and hold their baby and give them a name. You may also wish to have a photograph of your baby or to keep some mementos, such as a hand or footprint or the baby’s shawl.

If your baby dies before 24 weeks, the hospital may offer to arrange for a cremation, possibly together with other babies who have died in pregnancy. If you prefer to make your own arrangements, you can do that. You may need some form of certification from the hospital.

If your baby dies after 24 weeks, you will have to register the birth with the Register of Births, Deaths and Marriages, even if they are stillborn. Your hospital will offer to arrange a funeral, burial or cremation free of charge, or you can make your own arrangements.

Help and support

If your baby dies during pregnancy or shortly after birth, you will probably need a lot of help and support.

For many parents, talking to people close to you, such as family and friends, can be comforting. Sometimes, however, these people might struggle to understand what you are going through and may expect you to recover much sooner than is possible for you.

Your doctor, midwife or health visitor will be able to provide you with more information to help you understand what has happened and some people find it easier to talk to someone outside of their family and friends.

There are also a number of voluntary organisations that offer support to bereaved parents. These organisations include;

Post-mortems

If you lose your baby, one of the first questions you are likely to ask is why your baby died.

Sometimes a post-mortem examination can help provide some answers, although often no clear cause is found. A post-mortem may provide other information that could be helpful for future pregnancies and may rule out certain causes.

If it is thought that a post-mortem could be helpful, a senior doctor or midwife will discuss this with you and explain the possible benefits.

If you decide to have a full or partial post-mortem, you will be asked to sign a consent form. When the report is available, you will be offered an appointment with a consultant who can explain the results and what these might mean for a future pregnancy.

Multiple births

The loss of one baby from a multiple pregnancy is very difficult for any parent. Grieving for the baby who died while caring for and celebrating the life of the surviving baby brings very complex emotions. Often the surviving baby is premature and in a neonatal unit, causing additional concern.

For further information and support, contact the Multiple Births Foundation or Tamba.

Saying goodbye to your baby

A funeral or some other way of saying goodbye can help you to cope with your loss, however early it happens.

If the baby dies before 24 weeks, the hospital may offer to arrange for a cremation, possibly together with other babies who have died in pregnancy. If you prefer to take your baby home or to make your own arrangements, you can do that. You may need some form of certification from the hospital and they should provide helpful information and contacts.

If your baby dies after 24 weeks, you will need to register your baby’s birth (even if they were stillborn) with the Register of Births, Deaths and Marriages. The hospital will offer to arrange a funeral, burial or cremation free of charge, or you may prefer to organise this yourself. The hospital chaplain will be able to help you.

Alternatively, you may prefer to contact someone from your own religious community, the Miscarriage Association or Sands about the kind of funeral you want. You do not have to attend the funeral if you don’t want to.

Many parents are surprised at how much and how long they grieve after losing a baby. Friends and acquaintances often don’t know what to say or how to offer support.

They may expect you to get back to normal long before that is possible for you. You may find it helpful to contact Sands or the Miscarriage Association so you can talk to people who have been through similar experiences and can offer you support and information. You should be entitled to maternity leave if your baby is stillborn or dies after 24 weeks.

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