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When a baby dies in the uterus before birth, labour may have to be induced (started artificially) to deliver the baby and the mother will need to be admitted to hospital. Some parents want to have the induction as soon as possible, others want to wait for a few days so that they have time to take in what has happened and to see if the labour starts naturally. Doctors will advise parents on the timing of an induction, as a long delay can have adverse effects on the mother’s health.

If you are expecting twins or more, the doctor may advise continuing the pregnancy so that the healthy baby or babies can continue to develop and mature normally. Some parents are distressed by the idea of the dead baby remaining with her live sibling(s), although others find it comforting. The remains of the baby will be delivered when the healthy baby or babies are born. However, if the baby died early in the pregnancy there may be no visible evidence. The doctor in charge of your care should be able to tell you what to expect.

Whether you are induced or go into labour spontaneously, you will be admitted to the labour ward. Staff should explain clearly what your options are and what is likely to happen. You will need time to think about what to do, and should not feel pressured to make any decisions before you are ready.

Depending on the circumstances of your loss, you may be asked if you would like to see, touch or hold your baby. Research has shown that many parents find this extremely helpful.

You may want to see your baby but be worried about what he might look like. If so, you could ask the nurse or midwife to describe your baby first, or look at a photograph, or perhaps one partner can look. Some parents choose to take photographs of the baby. They may also choose to wash and dress their baby. However, if their baby is very premature or died some time ago, bathing may not be possible as their skin may be too fragile.

You may find that creating memories of your baby in this way provides some comfort and a focus for your grief. However, decisions about what to do in this situation are very personal, there is no right or wrong. You and your husband may have different wishes, or you may both need time to think about what would be best for you. Whatever you ultimately decide, the hospital staff should respect your wishes.