Coming home after losing a baby at 20–24 weeks of pregnancy

While parents wanted to get away from the hospital as soon as possible, and start to grieve for their baby at home, leaving their baby behind was difficult.

Several parents commented on how difficult the journey home was, knowing they were returning to a quiet and empty house without their baby.

Carly described how difficult it was, driving home from the hospital, and leaving her baby behind. Her heart felt broken.

Age at interview 30

Gender Female

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Before they got home, Mike’s parents had tidied away all the things they had bought for 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.

Lindsay explained how difficult it was to manage her grief when she went home while trying to behave normally for her son.

Age at interview 35

Gender Female

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Lisa and Matt explained how seeing their older son made coming home easier.

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.

Emily talked about how she felt physically and emotionally when she got home.

Asun explained how hard it was when her milk came in after the birth of her 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.

Maxine experienced bleeding and her breast milk coming in. These were extremely painful reminders of the loss of her baby.

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.

Lisa and Matt explained how anxious Lisa was at the thought of returning to hospital to check why she was bleeding.

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.

Kirsty and Matthew went away to a cottage for a few days, and felt distressed when she received a reminder about an antenatal appointment that should have been cancelled.

Loretta described how hard-going it was telling a health visitor her baby had died.

Age at interview 54

Gender Female

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Deciding whether to have a post mortem

When a baby dies, there are several options available to try to understand the cause. Most mothers we spoke to had investigations of their placenta...