Although it can be very hard to think about practical things, some parents value official documents about their baby. It can become very important to have paperwork that acknowledges your baby’s birth and officially record their name. It also means future generations will be able to read about the baby’s existence.
When should I register my baby’s stillbirth?
You need to register your baby’s stillbirth in England within 42 days. In Scotland it’s within 21 days. In Northern Ireland, you have a year to do it. You will need to register your baby’s stillbirth before the burial or cremation, so it often happens quite quickly. Sometimes a stillbirth can be registered after 42 days. You can speak to the register office about this.
You can name the baby in the register.
In some areas, the registrar will come to the hospital or you may be able to make a priority appointment at the registry office. The registrar will see parents in private to record the details and there is no fee.
There are more details of the timings and the location of your nearest Registry Office on the GOV.UK website.
How do I register my baby’s stillbirth?
You need to bring the medical certificate of stillbirth, which was given to you by your doctor or midwife, to the Registry Office in your locality.
You don’t have to enter a name for your baby in the register, but if you don’t add a name, be aware that you can’t add it afterwards.
When a baby is stillborn, a single stillbirth certificate is issued, rather than a separate birth and death certificate.
If your baby was born alive and then died, separate birth and death certificates are issued. If a baby dies after being born you will need to register the death within 5 days in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and 8 days in Scotland.
The registrar will keep the medical certificate of stillbirth. They will give you:
- a certificate of registration of stillbirth
- a form to permit burial or cremation, which you can then pass on the funeral director or hospital, depending on who is making arrangements for you.
There is no charge, unless you would like to pay a small fee for a certified copy of the complete entry in the register with names and other details.
It sometimes helps to phone the registrar in advance to book an appointment. This gives them an opportunity to ensure you don’t have to wait with parents and their new babies.
Who can register a stillbirth?
If the parents are married or in a civil partnership
If you are married or civil partners, either the mother or father can register the stillbirth. Both parents’ details will be included in the register, even if only one parent signs it.
If the parents aren’t married
The mother can register if:
- the baby’s parents are not married or in a civil partnership
- the father cannot be traced or is unknown.
If the father registers the stillbirth and the parents are not married or in a civil partnership, the mother will need to make a ‘signed declaration’. The register office can explain how to do this.
If the baby was conceived through fertility treatment
The following people can register the stillbirth:
- the mother
- the father (if he was married to or in a civil partnership with the mother at the time of the fertility treatment)
- the second female parent (if she was married to or in a civil partnership with the mother at the time of the fertility treatment).
If neither parent can attend, there are other people who can register the stillbirth for you, such as someone who was present at the birth. This might be a possibility for you if you were not noted on the birth certificate.
The GOV.UK website has up-to-date information and helpful information about how to register a stillbirth. It also has links to further information for people living in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, as the rules can be different between countries.
What if my baby was born before 24 weeks?
If your baby was born before 24 weeks of completed pregnancy, for legal purposes, this is known as a miscarriage. You will not need to formally register the stillbirth of your baby.
We understand how difficult and upsetting this can be for some parents who feel their baby has not been legally recognised. Some hospitals offer certificates of birth. You can ask your healthcare team if this is available in your area.
We have more information about late miscarriage which may be useful for you.
Getting more support
You can talk to our Tommy’s midwives for free on 0800 0147 800. We are open 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. The midwives on the line have received training in bereavement care and will be able to talk to you about what you’re going through.