When your baby is stillborn, expectations, hopes and dreams
are cruelly shattered and lives are changed. Many parents have
feelings of shock and confusion when told that their baby has died.
What happened? Why you? Babies are not supposed to die.
When they do, it can
be devastating, overwhelming, and painful. We are very sorry for your loss. No
one can take away the pain,
but we hope the following information will answer
some questions, provide reassurance, and help you.
Stillbirth is unfortunately common. It may affect anyone. There is
no way to predict when stillbirth will happen or who will experience it. There
is about one stillbirth in every 115 births. Each year in the United States
about 25,000 babies, or 68 babies every day, are born still. Most often a
stillbirth is detected while the baby is in the mothers uterus, sometimes not
until labor is underway.
Why was your baby stillborn?
Following a stillbirth, parents frequently ask, Why did this
happen? Sometimes a reason is found; other times a specific cause remains
unknown. Extensive and careful evaluation of the placenta following delivery may
help identify a cause. When a specific cause is not identified, evaluation may
still be helpful by at least helping to rule out potential high risks for
Identifiable causes of stillbirth generally fall into one of three
different categories: birth defects in the baby; problems with the placenta or
umbilical cord; maternal illnesses or conditions which may sometimes affect
Birth defects are a common, but often overlooked, cause for
stillbirth. About 1/4 of babies who are stillborn have one or more birth defects
that are responsible for their death.
The placenta and umbilical cord are
the babys lifeline for oxygen and nutrients. Problems in either one may
completely cut off or severely interfere with the needed flow of blood, oxygen,
and nutrients to the baby. Although commonly pointed to as the likely cause for
death of a baby, problems with the placenta or umbilical cord actually account
for only a moderate number of stillbirths.
Although uncommon, maternal
conditions may be responsible for stillbirth. Certain illnesses in the mother,
such as diabetes or hypertension, and their treatments, may occasionally raise
the risk of stillbirths. An increased risk for stillbirth is also associated
with alcohol and drug abuse, smoking, malnutrition and inadequate prenatal
In addition, there are many other rare causes of stillbirth.
Whether or not a specific cause for your babys death is identified, it is most
important to remember that stillbirths most often are not
caused by something you did or did not do.
What about future pregnancies?
Generally one stillbirth does not predict another. On average,
there is approximately a 3% chance for stillbirth to happen again in the next
pregnancyor approximately a 97% chance that a future pregnancy will birth a
Making sense of what happened
In the natural course of life events, babies are least of all
expected to die. The loss of a baby through stillbirth can be overwhelming and
devastating. Although surprising to some, the stillbirth of a baby is a great
loss, as great as that of an older child or any loved one.
When stillbirth occurs, parents who were anxiously awaiting a baby
suddenly are not. It is natural for you to grieve deeply for your loss and for
the hopes, dreams, and wishes that will never be. Hopes, dreams, and wishes
that, for you, were real long before the anticipated birth of your baby. You may
feel a strong sense of sadness, anger, or maybe bitterness at the unfairness of
tragedy. You may experience feelings of loneliness and longing,
helplessness, or, because of the intensity of your emotions, confusion. Many
parents also feel guilt. They often wonder if they did something to cause their
babys death; this is rarely true.
These intense emotions are real and a normal part of grieving.
Grieving is a process of making meaning out of your loss and of life without
your baby. Grieving is not easy. It is long, unpredictable, and requires a lot
But you need time to grieve since grieving is necessary to work
through pain toward healing.
Coping with your loss
Dealing with the death of your baby may be one of the most painful
experiences in your life. Everyone copes and mourns differently. Perhaps a few
of the following suggestions can help you survive some of the difficult
Take care of yourself. Eat well. Get plenty of rest. Stay well
physically so that you can continue to heal emotionally.
Talk about your feelings, your fears, and your grief. Keep a diary, write a
journal, create, start a flower garden; find an outlet suitable to you to
express your grief and pain. This may help you to see things more clearly.
Find a support network. Such a network may be your family, your friends, your
Rabbi or local community. You may want to contact a support group for parents
who have experienced the death of a baby, to share your story and feelings and
to learn from others who have also been there. Try contacting your local JCC
or synagogue to see what program they have set up. Dont underestimate talking
to other mothers who have experienced the same loss. They are the key to helping
you cope. Speak with your husband, allow him the space to deal with his grief,
and heal together.
Above all, give yourself time. TIME HEALS. Be patient. You will
never forget what happened, but you will heal. Healing is an ongoing process; it
does not happen overnight. But it will happen.