Finding out you’ve lost or are losing your baby
We are very sorry to hear you have lost or are losing your baby. Losing a baby at any time in your pregnancy is a devastating shock and we are sorry this has happened to you. Giving birth to a baby who has died is extremely difficult for parents, and families. You may find it hard to believe what’s happened and feel a whole range of emotions. As we cannot be sure when you lost your baby we have prepared some information that you may find useful.
Women experiencing a pregnancy loss up to 19 weeks gestation may be cared for as an out-patient or an in-patient in the gynaecology department. If your loss is diagnosed within the antenatal clinic or ultrasound department, you will be given all of the necessary information to enable you to make the best decisions about your care. The midwife will arrange for you to have your care continued within the Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit (EPAU). Here staff will look after you and explain the different processes and procedures you may need to go through. The staff should explain options for pain relief and how you will be cared for.
Late Miscarriage/Still Birth
In most cases your midwife or doctor will explain what will happen next. You are most likely to be admitted to the Central Birth Suite (Burnley) and cared for by a midwife in your own room. The doctor will explain the details of how your baby will be born, which in most cases will be induction which is medically safer. A caesarean is a major operation, potentially carrying more risks and will only be advised for medical reasons.
You will be given some medication to prepare you for the birth of your baby, and this will take some time to work, usually 24-48 hours. You may be at home during this time. If you feel too distressed at the thought of going home, it’s fine to stay in hospital.
In hospital, your labour may be induced with tablets, sometimes combined with, or followed by pessaries into your vagina. You may also need an intravenous drip to stimulate contractions. Once labour has started, most women give birth within 24 hours.
During your time at the hospital you will more than likely spend your time within a room called the ‘Serenity Suite’ or the ‘Butterfly Suite’. These rooms allow you to spend time with your child in private. They are designed to be a home from home, creating a calm and sensitive environment. Your partner will be able to stay with you and family will be allowed to visit if you so wish.
If your baby wasn’t due, you may find that some of the hospital staff use the term late miscarriage rather than still birth. You may find this terminology underestimating and upsetting. However this terminology is used for legal requirements, registration and the funeral service may also be different.
Giving birth to your stillborn baby is a shock. The silence after giving birth is painful.
When your baby is born, you will be given the opportunity to spend time together – with your baby and your family. This can bring a whole range of emotions. You may wonder what your baby will look like, and even feel scared about this. Seeing your baby can often be more difficult for the father. If this is the case speak to your midwife, ask them to describe your baby and reassure you. You could even ask to see a photo first. Each decision is individual and it is important you make the decision that is right for you.
Your midwife will dress your baby and you are able to bring your own baby clothes if you so wish. In some cases your baby may have died a long time before birth, which can cause bruising to your baby’s tissue. Your little one may also have an abnormality. This can be difficult to predict so ask you midwife to discuss this with you. They can wrap your baby accordingly.
The hospital environment is very warm and this may affect the skin of your delicate baby. The provision of a ‘cold cot’ to protect your baby so you can prolong the time spent with them is also available.
Serenity Suite and Butterfly Suite
These facilities have been specially designed to provide a comforting and quiet environment where you feel safe to have your baby and spend precious time with them. This is a home from home and is not a clinical facility. The suites consist of a small lounge and kitchenette area, bathroom and bedroom with a double bed. Your partner will be able to stay with you during your stay and family may also visit if you wish. The suite is to provide a calm environment to make your distressing time a little bit gentler. You will be able to spend whatever time you require within the room.
At whatever gestation you lost your baby, your loss is important to us. From the moment you receive the positive pregnancy test you become a mother and father. It is important to us that we recognise your loss and help you create special memories.
From as soon as an early miscarriage a small keepsake provided by ‘Friends of Serenity’ is available. This consists of a small organza bag with ‘forget me not’ seeds and an angel keyring. Whether you get the opportunity to meet you baby or not you can receive a tiny hat, blanket or wrap as a keepsake or to clothe your baby. These will be offered to you or they can be requested.
Parents of babies who are born early receive a memory box provided and made by Joanne at ‘Friends of Serenity’ called ‘Luke’s angel friend’. Provided in the box are many items to help you create precious memories of your baby. Within it you will find small clothes to dress and wrap your baby. The midwives will quite often dress your baby for you, as mentioned previously your baby is very delicate. Within the boxes are SD cards. Again, the midwives will use this to take photos of your baby and capture precious memories for you to keep forever. There are also specially designed papers and wipes for your midwife to take your baby’s hand and footprints. There are many other items within the boxes which we hope you will find of comfort. Check out Friends of Serenity Facebook page for more information and support.
If a baby was born asleep between 24-40 weeks gestation, parents are offered a different memory box, made by Nadia and Paul Webster. When Nadia gave birth to Ellis in 2010, he was stillborn, and she and Paul felt there was limited support available. In Ellis’s memory they fundraise to enable them to purchase items such as a clay impression kit, a teddy bear, candle, and a disposable camera.
Finding out why
A post mortem may provide information on why your baby died. The person who discusses the post mortem with you will explain what is involved, discuss the possible benefits and what may be discovered, tell you how long it will take, and explain the choices you can make. He or she will go through the consent (or authorisation) form with you and answer any questions you have. Whatever you decide, you can be confident that the staff will take great care of your baby at all times. If you don’t want a full post mortem, you could decide to have a limited examination. For example, you can have only certain organs examined, only skin samples or blood tests, or only an external examination of your baby. However, a limited examination will not usually give you as much information as a full post mortem: the person who discusses the post mortem with you can explain how much information each kind of examination is likely to provide. Genetic testing – testing the baby’s DNA – will be recommended if the doctors think it will give useful information, but it can only be done if you give consent. In East Lancashire post mortem is done by a perinatal pathologist, a specialist in the post mortem examination of premature and newborn babies at St Marys Hospital, Manchester. Your baby would be transported by local funeral director to and from St Marys. To get the most useful results, it should be done within a few days of the death. This should not delay any funeral arrangements. Some parents feel this helps alleviate the worry of unanswered questions in a subsequent pregnancies. You will have appointment with your consultant 8-10 weeks post birth to discuss everything. SANDS have lots more information on saying goodbye.
Telling Family & Friends
Every parent’s experience is unique. The death of your baby brings great depths of grief and your lives will feel like they have turned upside down. You may experience a range of emotional and physical reactions. All of which are normal.
One of the hardest tasks is letting family and friends know. They too will be shocked by the news and sometimes parents say they end up supporting those that should be supporting them.
Remember you do not have to answer all of their questions. You only say what you feel you are able to. You can give information at a later date.
If you can’t face breaking the news yourself, ask someone within the family to do it for you and say how you’d prefer or prefer not to be contacted. Friends and family are there to help and support you and they are usually just waiting for you to ask for help with practicals things or just to hold your hand, don’t be afraid to tell them what you need.
If your baby was stillborn after 24 weeks of pregnancy or was born alive at any stage then by law they must be formally buried or cremated. However before this takes place your baby’s birth or death must be registered. SANDS have useful information on registering your baby’s death.
If your baby was born before 24 weeks you can still have a funeral for your baby or if you prefer the hospital can make arrangements for you however at the hospital there is no service and no formal burial/cremation. Whichever option you choose there are always options and your funeral directors can help you decide.
It is important that you get a chance to say goodbye to your child, in whatever way suits you and your family. Holding a funeral or a memorial service involves lots of important decisions that you will need to make. There are lots of websites that contain poems, songs, music and other ideas you may need. These decisions may seem overwhelming, but just remember you will make the best decisions for you at the time so you don’t regret any choices in the future. These are right for you, right now!
A still birth certificate costs £4 this is currently funded by the charity Friends of Serenity.
To register a birth and death of a baby if you are unmarried, mum will need to go in person to register the details, please ask for support.
A few ideas to consider:
- Do what makes you comfortable and happy whether it is through religious traditions, poems, scriptures or songs.
- Try and create a new tradition, something special for your family
- Let others help you plan, even with just a little job. This will engage them in the process and take some of the minor things off your shoulders.
- Be aware that there is no right or wrong way to plan a farewell service. Whatever you as parents choose to do will be the ‘right’ thing. Personalise the service as much as you can to make it meaningful and special.
- It is possible to have a small graveside service or a private memorial service if you are not up to a full funeral.
- You may wish to be involved in your baby’s funeral by reading a poem, saying a prayer, or even singing a song. If not, consider asking a family member or a friend taking part. This will add a personal touch. There are many popular songs that people choose for their baby’s funeral. Let the words of the song reflect how you feel. There are now many artists who write and sing songs specifically about the death of a baby, but you may also want to consider songs that are meaningful to you or that remind you of your pregnancy and baby.
Taking Baby Home
Some parents decide to take their baby out of the hospital for a short while. They may take their baby home or to a place that has special meaning for them. There is no legal reason why you should not do this (unless a coroner or procurator fiscal has ordered a post mortem). If you would like to take your baby out of the hospital, tell the midwife or nurse. Many hospitals give parents a form to take with them to confirm their right to take their baby out of the hospital. You will be provided with a cold cot and the staff should also give you information about keeping your baby as cool as possible.
Friends of Serenity – A local charity that supports East Lancashire Women’s and Newborn Centre through the provision of bereavement suites, facilities not normally provided by the statutory authorities.
Charity number- 1157866
SANDs (Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society) – Support for parents and families whose baby is stillborn or dies soon after birth. Offers a helpline, local groups run by and for bereaved parents and a range of information resources including publications and leaflets.
Phone: 020 7436 5881
Tommy’s – Provides support, advice and information on infant loss. Tommy’s is the leading charity on research in to pregnancy problems and loss.
Phone: 0207 398 3400
The Miscarriage Association – Offers a helpline a network of support groups and telephone contacts across the UK, and a range of leaflets, fact-sheets and other resources.
Phone: 01924 200799
Ectopic Pregnancy Trust – Provides support and information to couples who have suffered an ectopic pregnancy.
Phone: 020 7733 2653
ARC (Antenatal Results and Choices) – Provides support and further testing to parents throughout the antenatal testing process
Phone: 020 7631 0285
Unique: The rare chromosone disorder support group – Unique runs telephone and email help lines for new and existing member families and professionals to find out more information about the group and about specific rare chromosome disorders. They have developed and maintain a comprehensive offline computerised database detailing the lifetime effects of specific rare chromosome disorders among our members. They also run local support groups.
Phone: 01883 723356
Aching Arms UK – They provide Aching Arms Bears to hospitals for midwives to give to newly bereaved mothers. They also reach out to mothers who contact them via our website, email, Twitter and Facebook and send dedicated bears, from one mother to another.
Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep – Originally based in America and Australia, NILMDTS is just beginning in the UK. They offer professional photographers to come to take photographs of you and your baby to keep as a precious memory. Absolutely stunning work!