Registering a neonatal death and/or birth

You, or those who are supporting you, might find this information about the steps that need to be taken to register the death and birth of your baby useful.

When your life is completely turned upside down it’s difficult to have to think about practical matters, such as registering the death, and, for some, the birth, of your baby. 

When to register a neonatal death

You need to register your baby’s death within 5 days (or 8 days in Scotland). The only exception is if a post-mortem has been requested. In this case you must wait for this to be completed.

If you have not already registered the baby's birth you may be able to do this in the same appointment.

  1. The midwife or doctor will give you a Medical Certificate of Neonatal Death (for a baby who died within 28 days of birth) to take to the registrar. You may want to make a copy before you go to the register office.
  2. It’s a good idea to phone the register office to make an appointment. If the registrar knows that you are coming to register the death of your baby, they will usually try to make sure that you do not have to wait with parents and their new babies.
  3. You can go to any register office but if you use the one in the area where your baby died you’ll be given the documents you’ll need on the day.
  4. Give the registrar the Medical Certificate you got from the hospital.
  5. The registrar will give you a Certificate of Registration of Death. They will also give you one or more certified copies of the complete entry in the register (called a Death Certificate).
  6. The registrar will also give you a form to permit burial or cremation. You should give this to the funeral director or, if the hospital is arranging the funeral, to the hospital.

Registering your baby’s birth

  1. You don’t need a form from the hospital to register your baby’s birth. The hospital will normally have notified the register office but you can register your baby’s birth even if the notification hasn’t arrived yet.
  2. The registrar will give you a short Certificate of Birth. It is free of charge. This confirms that the birth has been registered. You don’t have to enter a name for your baby in the register, but you cannot add or change a name afterwards.
  3. If you want a full Certificate of Birth, which is a certified copy of the complete entry in the register with names and other details, you may have to pay a small fee

Who can register a newborn's death and birth?

If you and the baby’s father are married or in a civil partnership, either parent can register the newborn's death.

If the parents are not married or in a civil partnership, you have these options:

  • both parents can register together
  • the mother can register alone but the father's details will not be included in the register
  • one parent can complete a statutory declaration of parentage form and the other can take the signed form to register the birth.
  • if neither parent is able to register the death, another relative, someone else who was present at the death, or a member of the hospital staff, can register the death.

If you need to hold the funeral sooner

The death of your baby usually needs to be registered before the funeral can take place. However, if you need to hold the funeral sooner for religious reasons, most registrars will help you by registering the death out of normal office hours. Ask the hospital staff for information about arranging urgent registration.

What happens to registering if there is a post-mortem?

If a post-mortem has been requested, you cannot register your baby’s death until the coroner gives permission. When this happens the post-mortem is required by law and you will not be asked for your consent, but the reasons for it should be carefully explained to you.

When the post mortem results are available, the registration and the funeral can go ahead. The coroner will issue a document allowing you to register your baby’s death and will inform the registrar.

  • If your baby is to be cremated, the coroner/procurator fiscal can give you the papers for this.
  • If your baby is to be buried, the registrar will give you the legal document permitting burial.

Read more about planning a funeral for your baby.

Review dates
Last reviewed: 04 October 2018
Next review: 04 October 2021