In the UK, stillbirth is defined as being when a baby dies after the 24th week of pregnancy; the World Health Organization (WHO) defines it as after 28 weeks. Stillbirth occurs in around one in every 225 births.
If a baby dies before 24 weeks, it is called a miscarriage. But this is a legal formality.
People who have experienced a late miscarriage will also have to give birth to their baby and so, understandably, think this should also be referred to as a stillbirth.
Unfortunately, there is often no identifiable cause of stillbirth, but there are some known factors that may increase the risk of stillbirth.
Stillbirth is a devastating experience and it can be difficult to know what to do next. Here you will find information to help you process what has happened.
Processing your feelings
Grief is a very personal experience, and everyone will experience it differently.
As the father, it’s natural to feel angry about what’s happened, particularly if the cause of the stillbirth is unknown. Knowing why something happened can help you to process the event. But as the cause of stillbirth is so often unknown, it’s important to find other ways to process your feelings.
The following may help you to process your grief:
Spending time alone or with others
It may help to have some time alone to process your grief, but it’s also important to speak to others about your experience and how you’re feeling.
If you can’t speak about how you’re feeling to friends and family, try talking to your doctor. It may also help to write your feelings down.
If you have lost your baby due to stillbirth, photographs of them or scan images can be important memories. You may also want to take hand and foot prints, a lock of hair, or write a description of your child.
These things can help the grieving process by providing a focus for your grief and a way to keep your child’s memory alive.
Stillbirth support groups and resources
If you need more support, reach out to the organisations below:
Sands - a UK-based charity that works to reduce the number of stillborn babies and provide support to bereaved families
Tommy’s - a UK-based charity that funds research into miscarriage, stillbirth, and premature birth. They also provide pregnancy health information to parents and emotional support for parents following a stillbirth
Helping After Neonatal Death (HAND) - a US-based charity that offers help and support to families who have experienced stillbirth
Supporting your partner
The loss of a loved one can put a huge strain on a relationship, because everyone grieves differently. Be aware that you will react differently, both physically and emotionally. In particular, women will experience a natural drop off of hormones after having a baby, which can affect their mood.
Try to keep communicating with each other and be kind to each other.
Remember your partner may not feel or respond to grief in the same way as you, so try to be patient with each other. It might help to talk to someone outside of your relationship for more support.
You might be going back to work before your partner, which can be difficult for both of you. Your partner may feel like you have already ‘moved on’, so try to keep communicating.
When you do go back to work, make sure you create time for yourself to grieve.
When it comes to sex and intimacy, it’s always going to be different after a pregnancy, regardless of the outcome. It’s common to have problems with intimacy in the first few months, but if problems persist, seek help from a professional counsellor.
If you are struggling with your grief or your relationship with your partner after your loss, try to seek professional help. Some useful resources include:
The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy - they can help you find the right professional to help you with your grief
RELATE - they provide relationship support with face-to-face, telephone or online couples counselling.