Born Still or When a Newborn Dies: Receiving the News

Your baby may have died before or during labour, or in the weeks following birth. When the baby’s death has occurred before labour commences, many parents have told of the overwhelming distress they felt as they watched the ultrasound show their lifeless baby. For others, being told during labour that their baby will be born dead brings a sense of helplessness and disbelief. Some speak of their pain and anguish as they watched over their baby in a neonatal intensive care unit.

Sometimes, the person who tells you that your baby has died or will die is someone you have never met. You may have found out that your baby died during pregnancy at a routine visit to your doctor or clinic and then had the death confirmed by ultrasound. Some women say they felt something was ‘not right’ before their baby’s death was confirmed.

Your baby may have been born prematurely and died soon after birth or perhaps lived for a number of weeks or months in a neonatal intensive care unit. You may have been told soon after delivery that, unexpectedly, your baby had been born with a medical condition or abnormality. During this time your baby may have been transferred to another hospital for specialist treatment.

The shock and turmoil that often occurs after finding out that your baby has died or will die can be overwhelming. Many decisions will need to be made in the days and weeks following. Parents have often found it valuable to take their time in making these decisions.

“As soon as he was born he had to be taken to the intensive care unit. I saw his little face and touched his warm skin for just a few moments.”

This article was prepared using extracts from Stillbirth and Neonatal death1. The full text is available online or contact Red Nose Grief and Loss Services on 1300 308 307 for a printed version.

Last reviewed: 20/7/24