Neonatal loss support - for dads and partners
Losing a baby is a devastating experience. If you lost your baby in the first 28 days after birth, it is known as a neonatal loss. Your medical team will guide you through this difficult time and we’re here with support and information for you and your family.
We also have information about miscarriage and stillbirth.
Causes of neonatal loss
It’s natural to want to know what caused your baby to die. There may be a clear reason, such as a genetic problem, premature birth or problems during labour. Tests or a post-mortem examination may be able to give you some answers. But sometimes there’s no clear cause.
Spending time with your baby
If your baby is not expected to survive, you may find it comforting to spend time with them and help care for them. The hospital staff will help you with this. You may be able to touch or hold your baby, feed them and change their nappy.
If you would like to, you can keep some items to help you remember your baby. For example, a photo, hand and foot print or your baby’s blanket. Talk to your partner about what you would both like to do to remember your baby.
You and your partner may want to spend time with your baby after they have died. The hospital staff will give you space and time to be together. Some parents like to wash and dress their baby during this time.
Getting support after neonatal loss
Losing a baby is devastating and you may feel in shock. Some partners start grieving for their babies soon after losing them. Others don’t start to grieve until much later.
You and your partner may grieve in different ways. Talking about how you’re feeling can help you support each other. Family and friends can also be supportive.
People always asked how Kate was, and rightly so, but only a handful of people ever asked me.
I have been very vocal about not forgetting the father or partner, because we both have had our future dreams taken away from us. We grieve too.
Rob, who lost his son Theo
If you don’t feel that you’re getting the support you need, speak to your GP or health visitor. The hospital may also have given you details of who to call for support.
If you want to talk to someone about how you’re feeling, our team of expert midwives are here for you. You can call Tommy's for free on 0800 0147 800, 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. Or you can email at [email protected]
Supporting your partner after neonatal loss
As well as coping with the emotional impact of losing their baby, your partner will be going through physical changes after giving birth. They will start to produce milk and will have some pain and bleeding. Their hormone levels will also fall, causing mood changes. These physical effects can be upsetting and difficult to cope with.
Encourage your partner to speak to the bereavement midwife, community midwife or GP if they’re worried about their physical or emotional health.
We have more information about the physical changes that may affect your partner after a neonatal loss.
Your partner may have follow-up appointments at the hospital, GP surgery or at home. The doctor will explain what each appointment is for. You could support your partner by going to these appointments together, if they would like you to. This will also give you the chance to ask any questions you may have.
Losing a baby can put your relationship under pressure. You and your partner may show your grief in different ways. Talking and being kind to each other can help. If you feel your relationship is suffering, you might want to speak to a professional. The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) has details of professionals who can help. RELATE offers face-to-face, online and telephone counselling for couples.
Read more about supporting each other as a couple after neonatal loss.
More support and information
- LGBT Mummies has a miscarriage and baby loss support group.
- Sands offers support for anyone affected by baby loss, including a Facebook group for dads.
- NHS Education Scotland. Pregnancy loss, stillbirth and neonatal death. www.sad.scot.nhs.uk/bereavement/pregnancy-loss-stillbirth-and-neonatal-death/ (Accessed February 2022)
- MBRRACE-UK (2019) Perinatal Mortality Surveillance Report. www.npeu.ox.ac.uk/assets/downloads/mbrrace-uk/reports/perinatal-surveillance-report-2019/MBRRACE-UK_Perinatal_Surveillance_Report_2019_-_infographic_summary.pdf
- SANDS (2020) National Bereavement Care Pathway. Neonatal death: full guidance document. Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society https://nbcpathway.org.uk/sites/default/files/2020-02/Neonatal%20Death%20Full%20Guidance_Jan%202020_0.pdf