Coping with stillbirth
Stillbirth is when a baby dies before she or he is born, at more than 24 weeks of pregnancy.
It's devastating to lose a baby in this way. You and your partner are likely to feel a range of emotions that come and go unpredictably. These can inlcude disbelief, anger, guilt and grief.
Whatever your situation, you don't have to go through this alone. You can talk to a GP, midwife or health visitor, or other parents who have lost a baby.
The charity Sands can put you in touch with people who have been through a similar experience, and can offer support and information.
Living with your loss
It's an enormous shock to lose a baby. Some women think they can hear their baby crying, and it's not uncommon for mothers to think they can still feel their baby kicking inside.
The grief is usually most intense in the few months after the loss. Some parents are surprised at how much and how long they grieve for their baby.
Friends and acquaintances may want to help but often don't know what to say or how to offer support, and they may expect you to get back to "normal" before you're ready.
Sands has a leaflet with information you might need in the first few hours, days and weeks after your baby has died.
It's called Saying goodbye to your baby and includes:
- how you might feel
- telling family and friends
- creating memories of your baby
- taking your baby home
- deciding about a funeral
Find out about coping with bereavement.
Video: bereavement - coping with grief after a stillbirth
In this video, an expert discusses the emotional impact, and Lisa and Jason describe how they coped when Jake was stillborn.
Media review due: 9 May 2021
Some parents find it helpful to create memories of their baby – for example, by seeing and holding the baby, and giving him or her a name.
You may also like to have a photograph of your baby and keep mementos such as a lock of hair, hand and footprints, or the baby's shawl.
All this can help you and your family to remember your baby as a real person and can, in time, help you come to terms with your loss.
The death of one baby from a multiple pregnancy (for example, if you were expecting twins) is very difficult for any parent.
Grieving for the baby who has died while caring for and celebrating the life of the surviving baby brings very mixed and complex emotions.
Sometimes the surviving baby is premature and receiving special care in a neonatal unit, which causes extra worry.
Saying goodbye to your baby
A funeral or some other way of saying goodbye may be a very important part of coming to terms with your loss, however early it happens.
The hospital may offer to arrange a funeral, burial or cremation. This may be free of charge or there might be a fee.
You may choose to organise a funeral, burial or cremation yourself. The hospital chaplain will be able to help you, or you may prefer to contact someone from:
They can talk with you about the kind of funeral you want. You don't have to go to the funeral if you don't want to.
Many hospitals arrange a regular service of remembrance for all babies who die before or after birth. Again, you can choose whether or not you wish to attend.
healthtalk.org has videos and written interviews of people talking about their experiences of stillbirth and neonatal death.
Sands has a family support pack to help guide you through this difficult time.
It's free, and offers information about practical matters, such as making decisions about a funeral or postmortem, and emotional support such as information for grandparents, children, family and friends.
Registering the birth
When a baby is born after 24 weeks of pregnancy, you need to register the birth, even if the baby was stillborn.
GOV.UK has all you need to know about registering the birth.
Page last reviewed: 12 April 2018
Next review due: 12 April 2021