Miscarriage

Advice on miscarriage and stillbirths

Stillbirths and miscarriages

Neonatal death

In law, neonatal deaths are when babies are born alive (at any stage of pregnancy) but die within the first 28 days of life.

What is a stillbirth?

A stillbirth is when a baby shows no signs of life at birth, after the 24th week of pregnancy.

What is a miscarriage?

A baby born dead before the 24th week is classed as a miscarriage, even though in many cases the mother will have been through labour and given birth. Everyday in the UK 17 families face the terrible pain, confusion and desolation that the death of a baby can bring. When miscarriages are added, that number rises dramatically. Despite this, bereaved parents are often unaware that it can happen. This can lead to feelings of loneliness, victimhood, anger and despair: “why did this happen to us?” Sometimes there’s a clear medical cause – a genetic abnormality, a malfunctioning placenta or cord or an infection. But often there’s no apparent reason, even after a post-mortem. Having no reason can be especially distressing.

There can be physical effects of grief – it can be exhausting, affect concentration and motivation, cause symptoms such as chest pain and anxiety. It can also affect self-confidence and self-esteem. It’s also true that, very commonly, a baby’s death puts enormous strain on relationships. Couples may grieve differently and this can lead to difficulties or accusations that one or the other doesn’t care, or cares too much.

How to cope when your baby dies

Answering ‘how do you cope?’ is difficult, precisely because everyone experiences grief differently. Having said that, many people find that:

  • It helps to talk – to a friend, partner, GP, helpline or at a support group, even though it can be hard to express feelings. Understand that friends may not know how to cope with your tears or know what to say, but they do care and want to help.
  • Bottling things up can be damaging, by being ‘strong’ for your partner, family or at work, you can be storing up problems for later. Allow yourself to react to whatever it is you are feeling, don’t hide your emotions.
  • Exercise can help to improve your mood, help you to sleep and reduce anxiety.

The loss of a baby is devastating and ‘Saying Goodbye’ provide a service for families who have suffered a miscarriage or the death of a baby. ‘Saying Goodbye’ can help families acknowledge these events, pay tribute to their babies, grieve together as a family and say goodbye. For more information about ‘Saying Goodbye’ please visit their website

Further support

Sands (supporting anyone affected by the death of a baby) is a UK-wide organisation that provides support to anyone affected by the death of a baby during pregnancy, at birth or shortly after. We also work with health professionals to promote good practice and research that could help save babies’ lives.

Sands has a nationwide network of local support groups. The groups are run by volunteers who have lost babies themselves. They offer a safe, non-judgemental environment for bereaved parents to talk about their babies. Many find it comforting to meet with others who’ve had similar experiences and share their stories. To find a group: www.uksands.org/Groups/Finding-a-group.html The helpline staff can send you literature and provide practical advice as well as giving emotional support or putting you in touch with a local volunteer befriender.

Sands publishes a variety of books, including one especially for dads called 'Fathers feel too'. And a play written by an American dad about his experience. 

NHS Choices 

Miscarriage Association

How we can help you

If you would like support and advice, you can talk to one of our Family Support Workers through Live Chat, email us or call our confidential helpline on 0808 800 2222. You can also share experiences and advice with other parents on our Forums.  Family Lives is here for you 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can contact us about any family issue, big or small.

Listening, supportive and non-judgemental