Stillbirth help and support - for dads and partners
A stillbirth is when a baby dies after 24 weeks of pregnancy, either before or during labour. Stillbirth can be an unexpected and very distressing experience for families. We are here to support you and your partner.
You may also find this information helpful if your partner gave birth after a late miscarriage (between 13 and 24 weeks of pregnancy). We have separate information about neonatal loss support.
Causes of stillbirth
Sometimes, babies die because there’s a problem with the placenta or an infection. But in about half of stillbirths, there’s no known cause. This can be really difficult to accept.
You and your partner will be offered tests to find a possible cause for the stillbirth.
Coping after a stillbirth
Losing a baby late in pregnancy is devastating. You may have spent time getting ready for your baby’s arrival and making plans for the future. Stillbirth can happen suddenly so it can come as a shock.
The midwife will support you and explain what will happen during and after the birth. You can speak to them about any worries or questions you might have. You may be able to see and hold your baby if you would like to. You and your partner may also find it comforting to keep a memory of your baby. For example, you could:
- take photos
- take hand and foot prints
- keep the blanket your baby was wrapped in
- make a memory box.
Keith lost his son Owen at 38 weeks. You can read his story.
Getting support after stillbirth
The hospital may put you in touch with a bereavement midwife or support worker who can guide you through the following days and weeks.
It’s natural to feel stressed and anxious for a long time after a stillbirth. But if these feelings don’t get better over time or you’re finding it hard to cope, you may need some extra support. Your GP is a good starting point. You can also talk to a Tommy’s midwife free of charge from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday on 0800 0147 800 or email [email protected] Our midwives are trained in bereavement support.
We have information about getting practical support after a stillbirth, such as organising a funeral.
Supporting your partner after stillbirth
You may feel you need to be strong for your partner but this can be difficult when you’re grieving and in need of support yourself. Everyone deals with grief differently. If you tend to keep your emotions to yourself, other people may think you’re coping when you’re not.
Read about supporting each other as a couple after stillbirth.
There can be a lot of information to take in at a time when you’re both likely to be in shock. The doctor or midwife will explain your partner’s options for delivering the baby. They will give you support and time to make decisions.
Your partner will go through physical changes after the stillbirth. Knowing what to expect will help you to support your partner. You might want to write down any questions you both want to ask at the follow-up appointments.
Read more about ways to support your partner after baby 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. Stillbirth: Overview. www.nhs.uk/conditions/stillbirth/ (Page last reviewed: 16 March 2021. Next review due: 16 March 2024)
- NICE (2020). Miscarriage: What is it? National Institute for Health and Care Excellence https://cks.nice.org.uk/topics/miscarriage/background-information/definition/
- Obst KL et al. (2020). Men's grief following pregnancy loss and neonatal loss: a systematic review and emerging theoretical model. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2020; 20(1): 11.
- RCOG (2010, reviewed 2017). Late Intrauterine Fetal Death and Stillbirth (Green-top Guideline No. 55) Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists www.rcog.org.uk/en/guidelines-research-services/guidelines/gtg55/
- SANDS (2020) National Bereavement Care Pathway: Stillbirth. Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society https://nbcpathway.org.uk/sites/default/files/2020-02/Stillbirth%20short%20guidance_Jan%202020.pdf
- Westby CL et al (2021) Depression, anxiety, PTSD, and OCD after stillbirth: a systematic review. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2021; 21(1): 782.