Bereavement and childbirth
The death of a baby is deeply saddening. Whether you suffer a miscarriage, a stillbirth or the sudden death of an infant, you can be left with deep feelings of grief and loss. Grief is an individual process and you and your partner or family may grieve in different ways.
This page explains the differences between miscarriage and stillbirth. It also has information about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and the services available to support you if you have lost your baby.
What is miscarriage?
If you lose your baby before 24 weeks’ gestation, or before your baby reaches a weight of 500 grams, this is called a miscarriage.
Miscarriage often happens with no warning, and there is often no medical reason why it happened. This can be very distressing, and while you may physically recover quite quickly, it can take much longer to recover emotionally.
You can read more about the signs of miscarriage on the HSE website.
You can also find information on the supports available following the loss of a baby below.
What is stillbirth?
If your baby is born after 24 weeks' gestation (or if your baby weighs more than 500 grams) and they show no sign of life, this is called a stillbirth.
When a baby lives for only a few hours or days after birth, their death is known as a ‘neonatal death’.
A stillbirth can happen for various reasons, but sometimes the cause is unknown. Because of this, you may be asked to consent to a post-mortem examination. It is normal to feel heartbroken and very distressed during this time. Read more about stillbirth on the HSE website.
At the hospital, the hospital staff will help with any wishes you might have – for example, to hold your baby, or to take photographs. The hospital social worker can refer you to bereavement counselling and link you to specialist support services. You may also want to discuss having a religious service with the hospital chaplain.
When you get home, your GP can refer you to specialist counselling if you are finding it hard to cope. You can also find other ways of getting support below.
Registering your baby’s stillbirth
If you want to, you can register your baby’s stillbirth and apply for a stillbirth certificate. This is optional and not mandatory.
Read more about how to register a baby’s stillbirth.
Maternity leave and paternity leave
What is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)?
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (or ‘SIDS’) refers to the sudden death of a previously healthy baby under a year old. SIDS was previously known as ‘cot death’.
Research shows that the cause of SIDS is unknown. This means that babies appear healthy prior to their death, and SIDS cannot be prevented. You can find more information about SIDS on the HSE website.
Getting support after the death of a child
If you have experienced a miscarriage or stillbirth, you can get support from staff at the maternity hospital. You can also contact your GP for support.
You may also want to contact some of the following voluntary organisations:
Pregnancy and Infant Loss Ireland
Visit the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Ireland website for:
- Contact details for bereavement support services in your local area
- Factsheets about pregnancy loss and stillbirth
The Miscarriage Association of Ireland
The Miscarriage Association of Ireland is a voluntary organisation which provides information and support to women (and their partners) who have suffered a miscarriage.
They offer telephone support, information about remembrance services, and factsheets on miscarriage-related issues. They also hold regular online support meetings for grieving parents via Zoom.
A Little Lifetime Foundation
A Little Lifetime Foundation (previously called the Irish Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society), is a voluntary organisation that provides:
- Information and support to bereaved parents and families whose baby has died, or who have had a diagnosis of ‘fatal foetal abnormality’ in pregnancy
- Parent-led support groups
- Professional bereavement therapy
- Information about remembrance services
FirstLight (previously known as the Irish Sudden Infant Death Association, or ISIDA) offers free support and information to families in Ireland that have experienced the sudden, unexpected death of their child (from 0 to 18 years old). It offers:
- A national 24-hour support helpline on 1800 391 391
- A home-visit service with a psychotherapist
- Bereavement therapy for individuals, couples and children