Pregnant couples usually expect birth to be a joyful event, not a sad one. In a
normal situation no-one expects a baby to die. The death of a baby brings many
A pregnant mother protects and nourishes her baby. If the baby dies some mothers
can wonder if they “caused” their baby’s death by something they did or perhaps
failed to do. However, babies usually die for other reasons. A doctor can help
to provide explanations. There are many different reasons for stillbirth and the
death of a newborn infant.
Parents often feel a strong desire to talk about their baby. Many want to be
with others who have suffered and survived a similar loss. Many bereaved parents
seek help from a support group from around 6 weeks or so after their baby’s
death. This is because until that time most bereaved parents feel at least some
support from their family and friends. However after a few weeks most family and
friends are able to get on with their lives and activities, whereas the bereaved
may feel they cannot get on with theirs.
In the months and years after a baby is stillborn the parents may still note
when their baby may have been walking or should have been going to school.
Christmas and family birthdays may also be painful reminders of what should have
been. Parents may feel particularly sad during these times. It is common for
bereaved parents to remember and think about their dead baby for the rest of
Many bereaved parents will go on to have another baby. Most will endure an
anxious pregnancy. It is common for bereaved parents to believe that the
subsequent baby will die too, either during pregnancy or infancy. The length of
time between the death of their baby and the next pregnancy does not appear to
affect the level of anxiety felt during the pregnancy. However if another
pregnancy occurs within twelve months, then parents have to deal with an active
grieving phase as well as anxiety caused by the next pregnancy. It is very
common for family and friends of the bereaved to believe that all is well once a
new baby is born, but the bereaved parents will still grieve for the baby who
Men also suffer after the death of a baby. Both parents grieve, but the way they
act and feel is not usually the same. Many bereaved parents say their
relationship changes after their baby dies. Some find their relationship
strengthens as a result of the tragedy, others drift apart. Couples who say
their relationship strengthened are usually also the couples who freely talk to
each other about how they are feeling.
Children also grieve for their baby sister or brother. Most seem to cope. It is
common to include the baby’s brother or sister when visiting the baby in
hospital and going to the funeral. Children usually like to talk about their
baby. It is often helpful to encourage children to discuss their baby’s loss
both at home and at school.
The baby’s grandparents generally grieve for their grandchild. They often suffer
because their child is suffering and grieve because their grandchild is dead.
Sometimes relationships in a family become strained after a baby has died. It is
helpful to talk through issues before they become problems.
Many bereaved parents feel they have been emotionally strengthened by the
experience of losing a baby. Most find they understand more about themselves and
what they really value. They know they can rely on themselves and their partner
when times are tough. Some find new friendships and understanding amongst other
bereaved parents. Many no longer take what they have for granted and are more
sensitive to their family and friends when they in turn grieve. Bereaved parents
who are further down the track can often look back and say “I survived when I
never thought I would”
Page last updated 17th April, 2008