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What happens after a stillbirth diagnosis

Your healthcare team will support you through your loss.

They will:

  • talk to you
  • answer any questions you may have
  • explain your choices for the birth of your baby

They may examine you to make sure you are well and look for signs of infection or pre-eclampsia.

It is hard to make important decisions when you are grieving. Take time to think things over. Talk with your partner and family and ask any questions you may have. It may help you to write down questions to ask your healthcare team.

Options for giving birth

Sometimes when your baby dies in the womb labour does not begin immediately. If this happens your healthcare team will talk to you about your options.

They will base their advice on:

  • how far into your pregnancy you are
  • any medical problems you have had
  • if this will be your first birth
  • if you have previously had a caesarean birth

You may wish to go home for a time to think things through. When you do birth your baby, the staff in your maternity hospital will usually give you a private room.

Your healthcare team will be aware of the devastation that parents can feel at this time. They will do all they can to treat you with dignity and respect.

The birth options that may be available to you are:

Inducing labour

This is where you are given medications to induce the birth of your baby. There are different ways of inducing labour. Often you will be given tablets to take by mouth 24 to 48 hours before being admitted into hospital for induction.

Waiting for natural labour to begin

You may choose to stay at home to let labour begin on its own. It is usually safe to wait for a period of time. Sometimes it can take more than 3 weeks before labour begins.

This may not be a safe option for you if you have pre-eclampsia, an infection or gestational diabetes. Your healthcare team will advise you.

If you do wait for a period of time, this could affect the appearance of your baby when they are born. Also, there is a chance that you could become unwell yourself. You may need to attend your maternity hospital for check-ups during this time.

Ring your maternity unit or hospital immediately if you have any of the following while waiting:

  • fever
  • smelly vaginal discharge
  • pain in your tummy
  • not feeling well

Why vaginal birth is safer

After learning that your baby has died, you may be shocked to hear that your obstetrician and midwives recommend a vaginal birth.

You and your partner may feel distressed by the thought of labour and birthing your baby.

The reasons a vaginal birth is recommended:

  • Vaginal birth is the safest way for you to birth your baby.
  • Having a vaginal birth now is safer for your future pregnancies.
  • You will physically recover more quickly.
  • Your partner will be able to stay with you.
  • You will be able to go home sooner.

If you have had a caesarean birth in the past, vaginal birth now is still the safer option.

Induction is safe after a previous caesarean birth. You will be monitored closely during the birth.

What happens at the time of birth

Giving birth to a baby who has died in the womb can be very distressing for you and your partner. There is no 'right' way to deal with how you feel. Trust your instincts to do what is right for you.

A midwife will be with you for the birth of your baby. You can see and hold your baby immediately if this is what you and your partner would like. You may prefer to wait some time before you see your baby, or you may not wish to see your baby.

Your maternity hospital will usually allow other family members to see you. They can see and hold your baby also if this is your wish.

If you have other children, letting them see the baby may help with the grieving process.

Page last reviewed: 28/03/2019
Next review due: 28/03/2022