When Your Baby is Stillborn or Dies Soon After Birth

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The death of a loved one is hard to understand at any time but, for many, the loss of a baby is incomprehensible. Yet this loss is experienced by one in every hundred families. For those families, the stillbirth or death of their newborn is something that will affect them, and their families, for the rest of their lives.

With the loss of their baby, many parents feel the loss of their hopes, dreams and plans for the future. Following the death of your baby you may be left shocked and devastated, having thought that this would never happen to you. Suddenly your expectations for the future are shattered. Your feelings are likely to be intense as you search for reasons your baby died. To feel sad, empty and bewildered at this time is understandable. These feelings are all part of grief and are common responses to loss. During the days, weeks and months that follow, you may often feel alone in your grief.

To help you approach this period, Red Nose Grief and Loss has prepared the following articles. Written from the collective experiences of parents whose babies have been stillborn or died in the newborn period, it shows that, while every parent’s experience of their loss is different, the impact of grief is similarly great.

“I waited so long for you and then in such a short time you were gone. Such a tiny life, such a huge impact.”

All those months

By Margaret Cordukes

Your little heart beating so strong

All those months

Is silent.

Your little arms and legs

Moving so vigorously

Are still.

Milk falling from your mother’s breasts

Will never nourish you.

Your eyes will never sparkle

Your little voice forever silent

Your mother holds you in her arms,

Timidly kisses your soft, smooth cheek

Caresses your tiny fingers

And whispers your name with tears

She dreams of holding you

Of watching you smile and grow

Her love is always with you

Though you will never know.

(used with permission)

Definitions

A Stillborn Baby

In Australia a stillborn baby is defined as one with no sign of life at birth and is of at least 20 weeks’ gestation or, if the gestation age is unknown, 400 grams birth weight. However, definitions may vary from state to state.

When health professionals discuss a baby who has been stillborn, they sometimes use the medical term ‘foetus’ when referring to the baby. They may also refer to the baby having died ‘in-utero’, that is, within the uterus or womb. Sometimes they may describe a stillborn baby as a stillbirth.

A Baby Who Dies in the First Twenty-eight Days of Life…

The first 28 days of a baby’s life are known as the neonatal period. When a baby is born alive but dies within this time, health professionals may use the term ‘neonatal death’.

This article was prepared using extracts from Stillbirth and Neonatal death1. The full text is available online or contact Red Nose Grief and Loss Services on 1300 308 307 for a printed version.


Last reviewed: 16/12/18