Your Hospital Bag
You may have already prepared for the birth of your baby and have your hospital bag packed. Or perhaps this event has come at an earlier stage of your pregnancy and you don’t feel ready for it? In this section you’ll find ideas about what you might wish to take with you to hospital.
We suggest packing into different bags to make it a bit easier for your companions. A labour bag which contains items which you might need during your labour; a separate bag within your labour bag which contains items you might need after the birth (for you and your baby); a postnatal bag which you might need if you stay in the hospital for longer than one day.
Early PregnancyIf you are experiencing the loss of your baby during early pregnancy, you may not attend the hospital. From approximately 9 weeks gestation it is possible to recognise the tissue that passes as being foetal in shape. In this case you might like to consider gathering the following items.
• Asking your hospital, midwife or doctors surgery for a commode bowl that you can place into your toilet. It can be distressing if your baby passes into the toilet.
• A small, shallow plastic bowl for holding your baby if you wish.
• A small box to bury your baby in.
• Organisations like Preemies UK or Little Things are able to supply small angels pockets, blankets and ice cream tub size moses baskets.
• Organisations like Cherished Angel Gowns can supply tiny outfits.
- Some old clothes/nightie to give birth in.
- Your own pillow.
- Something to play music on.
- Perhaps something to do while you wait for the induction to take affect (puzzle books, book or magazine)
- Lip Balm
- Some snacks
- Pyjamas or a nightie
- Change of clothes
- Old pair of knickers
- Maternity pads/sanitary towels
- Couple of breast pads
- Memory box/ items to create memories
- Outfits for your baby
- A blanket for your baby
- A teddy for your baby
Early PregnancyIf your pregnancy is in the early stages, many items above will still be helpful to you. From approximately 11 weeks gestation your baby will be recognisable. If you have chosen a medically managed miscarriage, you might find it helpful to let staff know if you would like to look at your baby. If you have chosen a surgically managed miscarriage, meeting your baby is unlikely to be possible so you will not need the items for your baby.
Post Natal Bag
- Changes of clothes
- Extra changes of underwear
- Maternity pads
- Breast pads
Place of Birth
Most births of a stillborn baby occur within a hospital setting. If you had any thoughts about, or plans for, your birth before your baby died, where did you plan to give birth? What were the reasons for this? It can help to consider these things when planning your stillbirth.
If you have found this site after discovering that your baby has died, you may have to wait a day or two before returning to hospital to be induced. Being induced requires you to be in hospital.
You can select to wait and see if labour starts naturally, however there may be an increased risk of infection occurring. The longer your baby remains inside you the more affect there is to the condition of their skin, so this is an important factor in selecting where to give birth.
It is unlikely to be possible to give birth to a stillborn baby at home, due to the induction process required and concerns of staff for your emotional and physical wellbeing. If you had been planning a home birth you may wish to speak to the supervisor of midwives. There may be adaptations that can be made to the hospital environment to help incorporate items from your home.
If you selected a birth centre birth, this is unlikely to be possible as your birth may now be considered high risk.
If you have strong feelings about giving birth in a particular place it is important to raise these feelings with your midwife or obstetrician and to explore the options together. If you had been planning a caesarean, you may wish to discuss this with staff. If there was a medical need to have a caesarean, this may be possible. If it was something that you chose, it is less likely to be considered as the first option.
Early PregnancyMany early pregnancy losses occur at home, particularly those before 8 weeks gestation or those that occur suddenly. Sometimes you might have noticed some spotting, or experienced some pain which led you to visit your doctor, emergency unit or early pregnancy assessment unit. This can mean that you discover that you have had a missed miscarriage –where the miscarriage has not yet occurred, or that a miscarriage will be likely to happen. In this situation you will be able to choose to return home to give birth to your baby, or to receive care in a hospital. In hospital you can choose medical or surgical management.
In a hospital setting birth companions are usually limited to 2, however these restrictions may be relaxed with a stillbirth. It is helpful to check, or have someone else check, with your hospital before you arrive to be induced to avoid distressing surprises.
It is important to consider who you would like to have with you during labour and birth. Both you and your partner are likely to be distressed, confused and needing support. It may be beneficial to arrange to have someone else with you, so that if your partner needs a break they can do so without leaving you alone.
Maternity services place a high emphasis on providing 1:1 care to women during labour and this is viewed as even more important during a traumatic situation. You may be cared for on the labour ward for the duration of your stay. Many hospitals have a bereavement suite now for such situations. It might be helpful to find out if your hospital offers this service, and from what point in your induction/labour you will be settled there. Your midwife should remain with you for the majority of your labour and birth, although this is not guaranteed and will depend upon the pressure of the service.
You may like to consider contacting a doula who lives locally to you. A doula is a person who is able to provide continuous support during labour and birth, to advocate and help you to manage the emotions of the situation. It is becoming more common for doula’s to be trained in bereavement support. You could check Stillbirthday to see if there is a doula registered in your country or area.
If you live in or around Somerset, in the UK you may like to read about our doula services. We may be available to support you during your labour, birth or postnatally.
If you do not live locally, we are able to offer a Distance Doula service.
You may like to discuss certain things with your birth companions prior to birth, for example your thoughts about seeing, holding and making memories with your baby after their birth.
Early PregnancyIf your loss occurs prior to 16 weeks gestation you may receive your care on a gynaecological ward. This may mean that stricter visiting times and rules apply, and may mean less privacy. You might be able to ask to use a side room. Due to the staffing levels, you may not have 1:1 care throughout your stay. Prior to attending the hospital you might find it helpful to ask who will be allowed to attend and support you. If you have surgery (a D&C) your support companion will need to wait for your surgery to finish, and will not be with you during the operation.
You may already have considered which pain relief, if any you would like to use during your birth. All of the options you have already considered will be available to you. Staff may also suggest other types of medication to you, which may be stronger and not usually available during birth as they may pass to the baby.
When you arrive at the hospital you might like to discuss these options with staff prior to contractions beginning, so that they know your wishes.
It is important to consider the effect of the medication upon you. You may wish to have all/as much of the pain removed as possible in order to not feel what is happening. You may discover that feeling a part of your birth and feeling the sensations of birth are important to you. Some people describe this process as something important that they could do for their baby, some people are more focused on getting through the experience in any way that they can. There is no right or wrong way – just the best decision for you at this time.
Some medication may continue to have an effect after you have given birth. Perhaps a physical effect on your mobility or an effect upon your memories of events as time passes. The staff will be able to give you more detail about these, so that you can make plans. For example, if you cannot stand up for some time afterwards due to an epidural, perhaps you would like your baby in a crib next to you. Or if you might not be able to remember the moment of birth or the moments after birth, perhaps you can ask someone to capture photographs, videos footage or to write their memories down for you.
Skin To Skin Contact With Baby
Perhaps you haven’t yet considered when/if you will give your baby a cuddle. Most parents do choose to see and hold their baby – and very few regret this decision. We speak with many parents who were not offered the opportunity to see or hold their baby, or some who felt unable to at the time and some carry regrets of missed opportunities.
One thing you may not yet have considered is skin to skin contact. The benefits of skin to skin contact with a live baby, are well documented and it is something many parents will have experienced. It is interesting to consider this practice in terms of a full term stillbirth.
When your baby is born, they’ll remain warm from the heat of your body for a little while. Sadly their temperature quickly cools. This can be quite a shock and may be distressing to you. It may be possible, depending on the condition your baby is born in, that the midwife deliver them onto your chest. Or that they gently wipe them off and support you to cuddle them against the skin of your chest. This can be a very precious memory.
Early PregnancyWe have worked with and spoken to, many parents who have experienced the loss of a baby before 16 weeks gestation. Many have chosen to see their baby. Some have taken photographs and some have held their baby in their hands. Some parents are concerned as their baby is very tiny, so choose to lay them on a simple cotton (not fluffy material, or paper) pad and then hold that.
After The Birth
The Third stage
After the birth of your baby, you’ll deliver your placenta. In most cases this is medically managed so that
the placenta is delivered shortly after birth. You may wish to consider creating mementoes using your placenta. You can ask your midwife to capture a placenta print for you.
The placenta and umbilical cord is likely to be examined once your baby is born. This may help to give an indication of the cause of your baby’s death.
Following the birth of your baby your body will respond as if you had experienced birth in the usual way. You will need maternity pads, or thick sanitary towels for the bleeding which occurs. The bleeding can be distressing to witness for some mothers, especially if you have had a previous loss.
Your breasts may also produce milk. Your midwife may discuss options with you (or you may need to ask them). It is possible to take some medication to slow or stop the milk production. You may choose to allow your milk to come in and reduce naturally. If this is the case there are natural products which can help you in this process and your midwife may be able to advise you on strategies to manage the discomfort.
You might wish to consider pumping your milk and making a donation to a human milk bank. This is not something which is commonly selected, but those mothers who choose to do this find the legacy their baby leaves behind comforting.
There are some other sensations which Mum’s can find distressing, surprising or difficult. After the birth your tummy doesn’t immediately return to it’s pre pregnancy size or state. It can feel very empty as you no longer feel the weight or movement of your baby inside you. Some Mum’s describe feeling sensations similar to a baby kicking (they call them phantom kicks). Some find this upsetting, some find it a comfort. This is thought to be caused by the body’s internal organs settling into different positions.