What is a stillbirth?

A stillbirth is the death of a baby after 24 weeks of pregnancy before or during birth. Stillbirth is one of the most devastating experiences any family can go through. We are here to support families who are going through this very difficult time.

What is a stillbirth?

When a baby dies after 24 weeks of pregnancy and before or during birth, it is known as a stillbirth.

The loss of a baby before 24 weeks of pregnancy is classed as a miscarriage. However, this is simply terminology for legal purposes. Many mums who have a late miscarriage also give birth to their baby and, understandably, feel that it should be called a stillbirth.

In 2018, there were 2,943 stillbirths in the UK. This means that 1 in every 250 births ended in a stillbirth. That's 8 babies every day. Our research into the causes of stillbirth is as vital as ever.

Much of the supportive information below is relevant to all parents suffering from the death of a baby in late pregnancy, however we also have support and advice on miscarriage here.

Support after a stillbirth

Stillbirth is one of the most devastating experiences any family can go through. We are here to support families who are going through this very difficult time. We have worked with women who have experienced stillbirth, their families and professionals who have supported them to develop supportive information below to help parents who have suffered a stillbirth.

Emotional support for parents

If you would like to talk to a midwife about any aspect of stillbirth or afterwards, the midwives on the Tommy's advice line have experience in talking about pregnancy loss and have had bereavement training. Phone 0800 0147 800. The line is open Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm.

Emotional support for others

Family, friends and colleagues of those who have suffered a stillbirth watch helplessly, while also often dealing with their own grief. These pages below offer support.

Practical support

When your baby dies, you will be given lots of information and there will be practicalities to take care of. When you’re shocked and distressed, this can be particularly difficult to manage and you might struggle to digest the information and understand what’s happening next.

Peer support

A very supportive community has built up over the last few years around pregnancy loss. There are lots of online communities supporting those who have gone through baby loss or preterm birth. All write movingly about their experiences of loss, life after loss and, in some cases, pregnancy and pregnancy/parenting after loss.

"When my son was stillborn, I couldn’t find anything to read about the mum’s personal experiences and what to expect... I needed something real, something I could relate to." Hannah Pontillo

Your next pregnancy

Pregnancy following a stillbirth is a time of anxiety as well as joy. There is some advice here on the care you should get and how you can take care of yourself.

A note about Tommy's

In all too many cases when a baby is stillborn there is no obvious cause. These baby’s deaths remain ‘unexplained’, which can be very hard for grieving parents who want to know why their baby has died. There is still a lack of research into the causes of pregnancy complications and loss, and that is why Tommy’s funds research into the causes of stillbirth, miscarriage and premature birth

Together for change

Our ongoing campaign calls for those who have been affected by baby loss to come together, to support each other and to campaign for change. Read more about it here.

  • Lawn JE, Blencowe H, Waiswa P, et al (2016) Stillbirths: rates, risk factors, and acceleration towards 2030, The Lancet 2016;S0140–6736(15)00837-5. DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(15)00837–5 http://www.thelancet.com/pdfs/journals/lancet/PIIS0140-6736(15)00837-5.pdf
  • MBRACE-UK (2017) Perinatal Mortality Surveillance Report, https://www.npeu.ox.ac.uk/mbrrace-uk/reports
  • RCOG (2011) Reduced fetal movements 2011, green-top guideline no. 57, Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, https://www.rcog.org.uk/globalassets/documents/guidelines/gtg_57.pdf
  • Flenady V, Wojcieszek AM, Middleton P (2016) Stillbirths: recall to action in high-income countries, Lancet 2016;387(10019):691–702, http://www.thelancet.com/pdfs/journals/lancet/PIIS0140-6736(15)01020-X.pdf
  • NHS Choices [accessed 10/01/2018] Stillbirth definition, http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Stillbirth/Pages/Definition.aspx
  • Tikkanen M (2011) Placental abruption: epidemiology, risk factors and consequences 2011, Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica 2011;90(2):140–9
  • Harmon QE, Huang L, Umbach DM, et al (2015) Risk of fetal death with preeclampsia 2015, Obstetrics and Gynecology2015;125(3):628–35.
  • ONS (2017) Vital statistics: population and health reference tables 2017, Office of National Statistics, London, England, https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/populationandmigration/populationestimates/datasets/vitalstatisticspopulationandhealthreferencetables
Review dates

Last reviewed: 1 September 2017
Next review: 1 September 2020