Coming home after losing a baby at 20 to 24 weeks of pregnancy
Several parents commented on how difficult the journey home was, knowing they were returning to a quiet and empty house without their baby. Parents who had older children at home described feeling torn between not wanting to leave their baby and wanting to see their children, especially as they had often been away from them for a long time. Parents often returned to visit their baby at the hospital. They discussed how they made the decision to stop visiting when their baby’s appearance started to change and deteriorate.
Physical health after the birth
As well as grieving for their baby, mothers were recovering from the birth. Some felt they were more aware of physical problems because they didn’t have a baby to focus on. Many said they were physically exhausted and felt “bereft” and “panicky” after the birth.
Even though they had lost their baby, mothers often had the normal physical symptoms of having just given birth. The experience of their breast milk coming in was an extremely painful reminder of the loss of their baby. Vikki Z had loved breastfeeding her older children so found this really hard. Other mothers did not experience their milk coming in, either because it naturally did not happen or because they were given tablets to prevent it. Sharon was pleased to be given the tablets to prevent this after the loss of her third baby. Several mothers we talked to experienced very heavy bleeding following the birth of their baby. This was unexpected, and they wished they had known it might happen and was normal. Lisa was not prepared for the large amount of blood she lost. She felt particularly anxious about the idea of returning to the hospital and so was glad when she was told it was normal. A few mums had more severe physical symptoms that required medical treatment back in hospital, such as infections or a medical procedure to remove retained placental tissue. Coping with going back to the hospital and being around mothers with newborn babies was very difficult. Communication with the hospital
After the death of a baby, follow-up care and good communication between the hospital and other healthcare staff was important for parents.Some parents felt they were “pretty much left” after they were discharged from hospital. While Asun was contacted by a midwife she felt they were focusing on her physical health when she really needed to talk about her grief.
Waiting for the funeral and investigations
Parents often felt in a state of limbo in the days at home following the birth. There was often a long time before they were able to arrange a funeral or to find out about any investigations into their baby’s death. Some parents we talked to were entitled to maternity or paternity leave from work as their babies were born showing signs of life. Others had to arrange to take sick leave which often added extra stress during a very difficult time.