04:08am Tuesday 22 October 2019

When a baby dies before birth – new patient information published

When your baby dies before birth: Information for you covers reasons why a baby may die before birth, choices for birth, what happens after birth and tests parents will be offered.

A baby dying before birth occurs in 1 in every 200 pregnancies. The most common reason for a baby dying in the womb is because the baby has not been growing properly. There are other causes including infection, abnormal development of the baby, diabetes, early separation of the placenta and pre-eclampsia. However, sometimes the cause is unknown.

The guidance also explores what the next steps are after the death of a baby has been confirmed by ultrasound scan. If the parents wish they can ask for a second scan to re-confirm the death, says the patient information.

Doctors and midwives will explain the choices for birth and the different tests that may be offered. In addition, the mother will be seen by a doctor to make sure that she is well herself.

Choices of birth include induction of labour or waiting for labour to start naturally. The guidance recommends a vaginal birth since, although the thought of giving birth vaginally may be distressing, it is less risky, recovery is quicker and future pregnancies are less likely to be complicated.

After the baby is born parents can talk with a member of staff about the funeral choices and registering the birth if the baby was born at or after 24 completed weeks of pregnancy. Religious and cultural are also taken into account. Options for support and bereavement counselling should be offered to parents; in particular the RCOG information recommends Sands, the stillbirth and neonatal death charity. 

Parents will be offered tests that may help to find out why the baby has died. In two thirds of all stillbirths, a cause is found and this can help with planning care in a future pregnancy. Unfortunately despite tests, sometimes deaths cannot be explained.

The guidance also covers parents who wish to have another baby. They will usually be under consultant care and will be seen early in the pregnancy. Additional support will be offered by the doctors and midwives looking after the mother throughout her pregnancy. 

Chair of the RCOG’s Patient Information Committee, Philippa Marsden, said:

“Being told that your baby has died before birth is devastating for the parents and families involved and good information is vital. This new patient information is written in an accessible way and covers many of the questions parents will have, particularly about choices for birth and the various tests parents will be offered, which may provide answers and help with a future pregnancy. It is intended to complement information from Sands, the stillbirth and neonatal death charity, which offers support to anyone affected by the death of a baby before, during or shortly after birth.”


For more information please contact Naomi Weston on 020 7772 6357 or nweston@rcog.org.uk 

To read the new patient information please click here

To view the RCOG’s Green-top Guideline on Late Intrauterine Fetal Death and Stillbirth please click here.

Sands is the stillbirth and neonatal death charity which offers emotional support and practical help to anyone affected by the death of a baby before, during or shortly after birth. As well as supporting mothers and partners, Sands also can help other members of the family, especially grandparents and other children, as well as friends. For more information please visit: www.uk-sands.org

Share on:

MORE FROM Pregnancy and Childbirth

Health news