Baby loss certificates – your questions answered

We’ve put together all the information we have on baby loss certificates, the government’s new scheme to recognise babies lost before 24 weeks of pregnancy, including who can apply for them and how to do it.

Today, the government have launched their scheme which enables parents of babies lost before 24 weeks of pregnancy to apply for a certificate of loss. Providing bereaved parents with the opportunity to recognise their experience more formally was one of the commitments in the government’s response to the independent Pregnancy Loss Review. 

It was important to work closely with parents with lived experiences when developing these certificates, and we were able to support the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) by connecting them with families from our community.

Now applications for baby loss certificates are open, we’ve put together answers to some of the most common questions you might have about the certificates and how to apply for them.

Where do I go to apply for a baby loss certificate?

From 9am on Thursday 22 February, you can apply for a baby loss certificate by visiting the government website and clicking 'Births, deaths, marriages and care' followed by 'Having a child, parenting or adoption'. 'Request a baby loss certificate' is listed on this page and here you can begin your application.

What do I need to apply?

To submit your application, you will need:

  • Your NHS number or postcode registered with your GP (you can find your NHS number on the NHS website)
  • The mobile phone number or email address registered with your GP
  • Permission from the other parent and their email address, if you want their name on the certificate

You don't need access to your medical notes, or any other medical proof, to apply. This means you can still apply even if your loss wasn't recorded by your GP or medical team.

Does it only cover recent loss?  

Initially, only those who have had a loss within the last 5 ½ years (since 1 September 2018) in England can apply. While this will be disappointing news to parents who lost their babies before September 2018, the government do intend to open up applications as soon as possible. We’ll keep you posted when we have more information.

Does it matter what type of loss I have had? 

No – these certificates cover every type of loss that occurred before 24 weeks. This includes early, late or missed miscarriages; chemical pregnancy loss following an embryo transfer; a termination for medical reasons; molar pregnancy; extremely premature birth; and ectopic pregnancy.

I’ve lost multiple babies, will I only get one certificate for them all?

No, each certificate recognises an individual baby. If you’ve experienced more than one loss, you’ll need to do a separate application for each one – including where you have lost twins or multiples.  

Can both parents be on the certificate?

Yes, both parents can be on the baby loss certificate if they each consent to include their name. When one parent starts the application process they can include the name and contact details of the second parent, and the application will then be paused while the second parent is contacted by the service for their consent – and they'll have 7 days to respond to the request. Once the second parent confirms they are happy for their details to be included on the certificate, the first parent can complete the application. 

Where the second parent doesn’t provide their consent, the certificate will only contain the details of the first parent.

Is this only available for people in England?

At the moment, yes, the baby loss certificate scheme is currently only being rolled out in England and you must have been living in England at the time of the loss.

In Scotland, there’s already the Memorial Book of Pregnancy and Baby Loss Prior to 24 Weeks. Parents can apply to have their baby recorded in the Memorial Book and will receive a commemorative certificate of their entry.

We, along with other campaigners, will continue pressing for it to be made available for bereaved parents in Wales and Northern Ireland. 

Do I have to apply for a certificate if I've lost a baby before 24 weeks?

No, baby loss certificates aren't compulsory and it is completely up to you whether you choose to apply for one. 

Is the certificate a legally binding document?

The new certificates were introduced to recognise the grief of families who’ve lost a baby before 24 weeks of pregnancy. They can be claimed by anyone and are not signed by a health professional.  

Even though they were introduced by the Department of Health and Social Care, the certificate is not a legal document. This means it won’t added to your GP record, and you can’t use it to claim benefits, for example.  

Can the baby loss certificates  be used in conjunction with maternity exemption certificates?

The certificates are official but not legal documents. They are self-declaration certificates, which means you request them yourself. Because they’re self-declaration, they can’t be used as evidence for maternity exemption certificates.  

To be entitled to free NHS prescriptions while pregnant, you’ll need a valid maternity exemption certificate. The certificate is applied for, or counter signed by a healthcare professional.

How do I register my loss if my baby dies after 24 weeks?

Parents of babies who are born without any sign of life, after 24 weeks of pregnancy, should register the stillbirth of their baby. They’ll be issued with a stillbirth certificate.

Parents of a baby born with signs of life at any point during their pregnancy (even under 24 weeks) but who sadly then die must register both their baby’s birth and death. They’ll be issued with a birth certificate and a death certificate.

What are the next steps in making these baby loss certificates more official documents?

We know more needs to be done to officially record miscarriages in the UK, which is what we've been calling on the government to do since 2021. We believe the government should be formally counting losses before 24 weeks, so we can better understand the scale of the issue.  

We’ll continue to push for the government to make baby loss a priority, so fewer families have to go through the heartbreak.  

Our Chief Executive, Kath, says: “We’re pleased that baby loss certificates will now be available to provide a degree of comfort for at least some families. We do believe, however, that more must be done to formally record losses before 24 weeks.

“We cannot begin to tackle the wider problem of baby loss without a Government commitment to gather and record UK-wide miscarriage statistics.

“Without data, miscarriage remains a largely hidden problem and isn’t prioritised, despite the tens of thousands of families affected by it every year.

“For an organisation like Tommy’s, which is committed to understanding and preventing early pregnancy loss, this lack of data stands in the way of improvements to services for women and birthing people who have experienced miscarriage.”