Stillbirth is the term used to describe the delivery of a baby after 24 weeks of pregnancy, where the baby has died in the womb. There are a wide variety of possible reasons for this having happened, but there is known to be a strong link between stillbirth and poor growth in the womb. However, about half of all stillbirths remain unexplained. There is a need for more research into causes and prevention of stillbirth.
The vast majority of women opt for an induced labour, once it is discovered that the baby has died in the womb. Caesaerian Section is not usually recommended, as there is a higher risk of bleeding than usual. Maternity Units will usually provide a quiet and private area for the woman to give birth, and will allow as much time as is necessary afterwards for parents to spend time with their baby. Taking photographs and handprints/footprints and locks of hair is really important at this stage, as they will be sadly all the family will have left of their child in years to come.
Afterwards, parents will be offered the option of a postmortem, to see if a cause for the death of their baby can be found. Funeral arrangements will be made, if the parents have opted to have a funeral, and the stillbirth will need to be registered at the local registry office.
It will obviously take time to begin to recover and pick up the pieces of life after such a devastating loss. Support and understanding from family and friends are critical at this time, and for many years afterwards.