Finding Out the Cause of a Stillbirth or Neonatal Death

Finding out the cause of your baby’s death may be of great importance to you. The reason may already be known at the time of birth or death, but for many parents the cause of the baby’s death may not be known until after a post-mortem examination (see Post-mortem Examination).

However in some cases, post-mortem and other medical investigations do not reveal the cause of the baby’s death.

Although more than half of all stillborn babies will have an unexplained cause of death, some babies are stillborn because of congenital abnormalities.

Of the babies who die in the newborn period, more than half have been of less than 2000 grams birth weight. Some babies are born too early to survive, and others may have congenital abnormalities of the heart, circulatory or gastro-intestinal systems. Chromosomal abnormalities and complications of the placenta and cord can also result in the death of the newborn infant.

Concerns or questions you may have regarding the cause of your baby’s death can be discussed with your obstetrician, neonatologist, midwife, geneticist or genetic counsellor.

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: 17/4/24