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The cause of a baby’s death can sometimes be determined by testing the mothers blood, examining the placenta, or conducting a post-mortem the examination of the baby. However, in more than half of all cases, the reason why a baby was stillborn is not known.

A post mortem examination may:


Identify a cause or causes of death


Provide information about the baby’s development


Provide information about any health problems which will help your doctor to care for you in a future pregnancy


Confirm the baby’s sex

A post-mortem does not always provide a specific reason for what happened and this can be very frustrating. You do not have to agree to a post-mortem examination — in fact, most parents decline because of personal, religious or cultural reasons.

To help you make a decision, the hospital staff should give you as much information as you need. No investigations or tests will be done without your consent, and your views and wishes should be respected. You may need a little time to think about your decision. However, the sooner the post-mortem is done, the better the information is likely to be.

If you decide to have a post-mortem examination, you will be asked to give written consent before it is carried out. Depending on the size and condition of your baby, it may be possible for you to see him again after the post-mortem. The staff should tell you in advance if this will be feasible and, if so, what the baby is expected to look like. If staff advise you against seeing him after the post-mortem, you may want to say your goodbyes beforehand. You should also be told when the post-mortem results are likely to be available, and given an appointment to discuss them with the doctor.