5min read

What is a miscarriage?

A baby born dead before the 24th week is classed as a miscarriage, even though in many cases the mother will have been through labour and given birth. Everyday in the UK many families face the terrible pain, confusion and desolation that the death of a baby can bring. When miscarriages are added, that number rises dramatically. Despite this, bereaved parents are often unaware that it can happen. This can lead to feelings of loneliness, victimhood, anger and despair: “why did this happen to us?” Sometimes there’s a clear medical cause – a genetic abnormality, a malfunctioning placenta or cord or an infection. But often there’s no apparent reason, even after a post-mortem. Having no reason can be especially distressing.

There can be physical effects of grief – it can be exhausting, affect concentration and motivation, cause symptoms such as chest pain and anxiety. It can also affect self-confidence and self-esteem. It’s also true that, very commonly, a baby’s death puts enormous strain on relationships. Couples may grieve differently and this can lead to difficulties or accusations that one or the other doesn’t care, or cares too much.

Neonatal death

In law, neonatal deaths are when babies are born alive (at any stage of pregnancy) but die within the first 28 days of life.

What is a stillbirth?

A stillbirth is when a baby shows no signs of life at birth, after the 24th week of pregnancy.

How to cope when you lose your baby

Answering ‘how do you cope?’ is difficult, precisely because everyone experiences grief differently. Having said that, many people find that:

  • It helps to talk – to a friend, partner, GP, a helpline or at a support group, even though it can be hard to express feelings. Understand that friends may not know how to cope with your tears or know what to say, but they do care and want to help.
  • Bottling things up can be damaging, by being ‘strong’ for your partner, family or at work, you can be storing up problems for later. Allow yourself to react to whatever it is you are feeling, don’t hide your emotions.
  • Exercise can help to improve your mood, help you to sleep and reduce anxiety.

The loss of a baby is devastating and ‘Saying Goodbye’ provide a service for families who have suffered a miscarriage or the death of a baby. ‘Saying Goodbye’ can help families acknowledge these events, pay tribute to their babies, grieve together as a family and say goodbye. For more information about ‘Saying Goodbye’ please visit their website

Other organisations that may be useful:

Sands is a UK-wide organisation that provides support and advice 

The NHS has helpful advice and support for families

Further resources

If you would like further support and advice, call our helpline on 0808 800 2222 or email us at askus@familylives.org.uk. You can talk to us online via our live chat service, which is open, Monday to Friday between 10.30am and 9pm. You may find it helps to find out how other parents and carers have coped with this on our online forums. We also have a range of free online parenting courses that can help through the ages and stages of parenting.