Q: What is a stillbirth?
A: A stillbirth is when a baby dies in the uterus after 24 weeks' gestation before it is born. Losing a baby is very different than other losses, which may be partly due to the fact that we do not expect to lose babies in this day and age of technology and health-care advancements. The cruel contrast between birth and death occurring at the same time and having no physical live memories of this person that you have bonded with during the pregnancy and looked forward so much to meeting is very difficult to comprehend. Parents often search for answers to questions that may be unexplainable, and this can delay the whole grieving process. The important thing for couples who experience such a loss is to try not to dwell on the ifs, buts, and maybes and remember it was not their fault.
Q: How likely is a baby to die in labor or shortly after birth?
A: The death of a baby during labor is known as interpartum death; this is usually caused by a lack of oxygen during labor, possibly due to a problem with the placenta, or an injury to the baby during labor and birth. However, this is extremely rare today thanks to improvements in monitoring the mother and baby during labor and dealing with signs of distress. When a baby dies in the first four weeks of life, this is known as neonatal death, which affects around 3 out of 1000 babies. Neonatal deaths usually occur in babies who are very premature who may have breathing difficulties, or in babies who have severe chromosomal or genetic abnormalities. Infection used to be a more significant cause of neonatal death, but this is now rare. For couples who lose a baby in these circumstances, it's important to accept that it was extremely unlikely to be related to anything they did or didn't do.
Q: I feel like there is a big empty hole where my baby was. I'm devastated—will I get over this?
A: Losing a baby is extremely difficult and overwhelming. Some people say that time is a good healer, but others find it hard to make sense of it all. If you have been given a possible cause as to why your baby died, this may help you understand that it was not your fault and to be able, in time, to move on. Keep hold of any precious memories or keepsakes you may have been given at the hospital, such as a photograph or a lock of hair, and seek support from your loved ones and counselors, if necessary. Several SIDS support groups exist that can offer you support and comfort and put you in touch with other families who are in a similar position. You may find that sharing your thoughts and feelings with people who have been through the same tragedy helps you to process your grief and, over time to move forward, although of course the sadness will never leave you.
Q: I'm so busy being a shoulder for her to cry on, but I don't know how to cope myself.
A: Often the effects of the loss of a baby on the father are not considered. This may be because of outdated notions about the way men react to grief, in particular by not letting their emotions show. It is also common for men to feel that they have to be the stronger party and to feel that it is not masculine to express their feelings openly. Fathers often throw themselves back into their work to take their mind off things, or distract themselves with other activities and pursuits. It's important that you recognize that this is a difficult time for both of you and that you may not be able to support each other by yourselves, particularly if you are grieving in different ways. You may need to consider counseling and approaching support groups as well as friends and family.
Q: I want to find out more about why my baby died—how could I go about this?
A: Seeking answers to your questions may be a positive part of the grieving process and can help you begin to move forward. During the delivery of your baby and shortly afterward, you may have consented to having certain tests performed. These may have included blood tests, swabs, an analysis of the placenta, and an autopsy of your baby. Once the results of these have been gathered, along with your case notes, your midwife or physician can arrange an appointment for you to come in and discuss the results and any possible explanations as to why this may have happened. It is often the case that there are no obvious reasons as to why this tragedy has occurred. This can be both frustrating and upsetting and you may feel that counseling or a support group may be able to help you.
Q: The hospital won't admit they made mistakes when our baby died—where can we get help?
A: You are likely to be experiencing great emotional turmoil and it is extremely important that you seek as much information as you can before you take matters further. I would suggest that first you make an appointment with the midwife and/or doctor present at the birth since this may answer some or all of your questions.

If you are still not satisfied, very occasionally, parents may feel that they need to seek legal advice if they think that negligence was the cause of their baby's death. If you feel this is the case, then you do have the right to talk to an attorney to discuss your case. Some lawyers offer a half-hour appointment to discuss the situation and advise whether they think your case is worth pursuing before you make a commitment in terms of time and money. If you do decide to take a case forward, you should be aware that the procedure can be frustrating, stressful, and upsetting. As before, you may also benefit from some counseling or by talking to support group parents.

Q: I never held my baby after she was stillborn. I couldn't face it and now I regret it. What can I do?
A: Losing your baby is a devastating experience and the grieving process can be made more difficult by the fact that you did not get to know your baby and have no memories of her to hold onto. Seeing and holding your baby after the birth and taking photos can help in the grieving process since it enables you to give your baby an identity and to visualize her, and medical staff often encourage couples to spend time with their baby to enable them to say goodbye.

However, at the time of losing a baby, there are many things that you have to deal with physically and emotionally and making decisions while you are in a state of shock and grieving is a very difficult thing to do. Try to understand this and accept that you felt unable to hold your baby after the birth, and instead think of other ways to remember and cherish her. The nursing staff almost always collects keepsakes and holds them for the parents should they want them. Photographs, a lock of hair, the bracelet, and foot prints of the baby can be held for you. If this wasn't possible, you could make a special box of toys, clothes that you had bought for your baby, and scan pictures in memory of her. You may also want to plant a tree or a shrub in honor of your baby, or create a special place to visit to remember her. Sometimes, writing down your thoughts and feelings in a journal can help you deal with your grief.

Q: I feel so angry; I can't even cry. It's affecting my relationship with my wife—is this part of grief?
A: Yes, this is a very normal part of the grieving process, which is a natural phenomenon that helps us move forward and can include sorrow, guilt, anger, blame, and depression. It is very common for men to show their emotions in different ways than women, often feeling it is not “masculine” to cry and that they have to be the stronger of the two. You will both be grieving in different ways and will enter and leave some or all of the stages of grief at different times, and the whole experience is likely to put a great strain on your relationship as your different emotional responses can lead to misunderstanding and resentment. You may find it helpful for both of you to see a counselor since an independent trained person may be able to offer you the additional support that you need. You may also need some specific help to help you express your grief as you struggle to support your partner.
Q: How long should we wait before we try for another baby?
A: Following the tragic loss of a baby, there is no set time when a couple should try for another baby. This will largely depend on when you both feel mentally ready. What stage your pregnancy loss occurred and how you delivered your baby may also affect how ready you are to consider trying again; often, a loss in the later stages of pregnancy can take longer to recover from. From a physical point of view, it is usually better to give your body six weeks to return to its normal state. If you had a cesarean section, it is recommended that you wait for a year for your incision to heal before getting pregnant again. Counseling and support can help you decide when you are psychologically ready to try again. Your doctor or midwife can refer you for this.

Coping How to deal with the death of a baby

The death of a baby is one of the most devastating of all life experiences. Although you will never forget your loss, there are ways to help you cope.

  • The most important thing is to talk about what has happened, whether to your partner, family, friends, counselor, or a supportive organization.

  • Recognize that you and your partner need time to work through your feelings and that you may not always feel the same thing at the same time.

  • Be prepared for some people's inability to talk about what has happened.

Losing a twin How to cope when one baby dies

Losing one twin, or triplet, is extremely hard and can be a very bitter-sweet experience.

Parents who lose one twin are likely to have many conflicting emotions as they are faced with the prospect of grieving for their lost baby, while welcoming the surviving twin into the world. Some may find that they are unable to do both at once, and so the grieving process is put on hold in order to care for the other baby. This can lead to feelings of guilt and anxiety and can cause a great deal of stress. Parents may also be made to feel that the dead twin is compensated for by the surviving one and therefore may feel that they cannot express the devastation they feel at losing a baby. It is therefore extremely important that parents who lose a twin or triplet seek help and advice if they feel they are unable to cope with their grief, or need support caring for the surviving baby.


Talking to someone about your loss, whether to a trained counselor or other confidante, is often the starting point in healing

Helping and consoling Coming to terms with loss

The death of a baby in pregnancy or, more rarely, in labor or shortly after the birth, is a devastating loss and couples who experience this will have to cope with feelings of shock, confusion, anger, guilt, sadness, and regret. It will take time to work through all of these emotions and it's important that you allow yourself this time to grieve and don't feel under pressure from others to “move on” before you feel ready. Both of you may benefit from a period away from work. For the mother, this allows time for her body to recover from the pregnancy and birth, and for both partners, this time may be needed to recover from the initial debilitating shock of losing their baby.

Q: How can we help each other?
A: Although you may feel that you don't have the resources to help anyone else, you and your partner can help each other by recognizing that you may be dealing with your loss in different ways. You may not be at the same stage of the grieving process as each other and may also display your emotions differently. Understanding this can help avoid feelings of resentment building up between you. The best way to appreciate how you both feel is to keep the channels of communication open. Although grief can be an intensely private experience and it is easy to withdraw from others, talking about your shared loss can help ensure that your relationship remains supportive.
Q: Will friends and family help?
A: Although having the support of family and friends is important at this difficult time, you will probably find that there are a variety of responses to your grief. You may find that close family and friends are unable to offer the level of support you need since they are possibly grieving your loss too. On the other hand, you may find that when you talk to others, they reveal their own tales of grief and suffering and are able to empathize with your loss. Sometimes people are unsure about how to respond to your loss; they may feel embarrassed and at a loss for words of comfort, or fear that they will upset you if they talk about what has happened, and sometimes may even avoid interacting with, or seeing, you. Unfortunately, this can leave you feeling more isolated and lacking in support, and emphasizes the importance of finding someone you can talk to, such as a professional grief counselor who deals with miscarriage and stillbirth, who can help you to channel your grief. There are also plenty of support groups where you can share your experience with other bereaved parents.
Taking time out:

The loss of a baby can put relationships under an enormous strain. Couples who allow themselves time to grieve may find it easier to work through the onslaught of emotions.

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