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Early pregnancy loss—sensitive care at a difficult time

Early pregnancy loss

Grieving for your baby

We are sorry that you have experienced the death of your baby in early pregnancy. You are likely to feel sad and you may need time to grieve. Don’t expect too much of yourself, some women recover quickly, others take a long time. You may experience a range of feelings such as sadness, anger, bitterness or guilt. Perhaps you may worry that some activities such as exercise, housework, going to work, drinking, smoking or sexual intercourse caused the miscarriage. This is a normal reaction, but it is very seldom that anything you have done, or not done, that has caused your loss. 

The death of a baby can be traumatic at any stage of pregnancy. Your unique circumstances will have an influence on what this baby means for you. Often parents who have experienced an early pregnancy loss feel isolated and lonely particularly when many others around them are having babies. Any resentment that you may feel is very common, these feelings are normal. It is important to acknowledge and accept your feelings and experience, as a part of the grieving process.

Partners

Partners are likely to feel upset because of your distress, as well as for the loss of the baby. You may be able to support each other and may even feel that this experience has brought you closer together. However, grief can put a strain on even the closest relationships. Just when you need each other most, it may be difficult to offer each other support. You and your partner may both be upset but in different ways or at different times. For example, one of you might want to talk, the other may want silence or simply find it hard to express feelings. One of you may want to try for another pregnancy as soon as possible, but the other may want to wait, perhaps for some time. Your partner may feel guilty because you are the one who has experienced the physical aspects of miscarriage.

Sometimes partners feel powerless to help and may focus on being emotionally strong for you. The downside is that they may end up feeling isolated, with no-one to with about their feelings. They may also hide their feelings so well that they appear not to care. If you are much more upset than your partner, then they may struggle to understand why life is not back to normal and why it is taking you a long time to come to terms with the loss. This can cause tension and arguments at what is already a difficult and distressing time. Sadly, it may be that your partner is unsympathetic to your loss, or that you don’t have a partner.

This can leave you feeling lonely and unsupported and it may be even more important to find support from a family member or close friend.

Children

Children often notice when something is wrong, especially if a parent or someone close to them is upset. You may want to think about telling them what has happened, even very simply, especially if they knew you were pregnant. There are brochures and books available to assist you in understanding how children grieve and how to explain what has happened. Pastoral care is also available to provide you with support and guidance with how to approach the conversation.  

What happens to your baby now?

Performing tests and looking for a cause

The team caring for you will discuss the types of tests that can be offered to help determine the reason for the pregnancy loss. It is your choice as to whether you would like these tests completed. Unfortunately sometimes a reason for your loss cannot be determined.

If your loss occurs before 12 weeks there may only be a small amount to be seen or examined. It is not usually possible to identify a baby. Most of the tissue is immature placenta. After 12 weeks your baby may be more identifiable and usually the pathologist only examines the placenta. Rarely, however, the pathologist may
suggest that we discuss with you the benefits of examining the baby more closely by performing an autopsy.

All babies and pregnancy tissue will be treated with the reverence and dignity required by the philosophy and Mission of the Mater Hospital and the Sisters of Mercy. The team caring for you will discuss the types of tests that can be offered to help determine the reason for the pregnancy loss.

Cremation and burial

Many parents want to know what happens to their baby's remains after a miscarriage. Mater arranges a collective cremation for all babies who died in early pregnancy unless otherwise notified by parents. Your babies' ashes are then placed in a especially reserved memorial garden located away from the hospital at Eco Memorial Park, 21 Quinns Hill Road West, Stapylton. Please be aware that we cannot give you any indication of the timing for internment of ashes. We invite you to visit the garden at any time

However, if you choose to have your own private ceremony or burial (this is not a legal requirement if your baby is less than 20 weeks gestation) please contact Pregnancy Assessment Centre (PAC) within 28 days of your miscarriage to arrange collection of your baby.

Remembering your baby

Creating memories

During your stay in the hospital there are healthcare professionals that will journey alongside and provide support when families are faced with the devastating loss of a baby. They understand that the family may feel vulnerable, alone or be in a state of shock. As health professionals they recognise that families are often too distressed
to make decisions. The care is personal and confidential providing the patient the support necessary in time of grief and loss. It is during this process that a Pastoral Carer can visit and provide a Memory Box to assist in creating memories. The parents can find meaning and purpose in their own way valuing the memory of their baby. These
memories can be created through options of having a Naming or Blessing Ceremony and be provided with a certificate that commemorates their baby.

Establishing memories can be a way where parents can continue to have a tangible connection with their baby that can be part of an ongoing healing process and acknowledgment that their baby will always be loved and remembered. Thereby, loving memories are indelibly imprinted upon the hearts and minds of the parents.

Blessing

You may find comfort in having a blessing said for your baby (and for you). Please let us know if this is important to you and will arrange this for you. 

Memorial service

There is value in rituals when acknowledging the death of a baby. Rituals also recognise the loss of your hopes and dreams for a wanted pregnancy. Therefore, Mater offers services of remembrance twice per year. These services are open to women and their families who have experienced a pregnancy loss.

Service of remembrance

The service is held each year on the third Wednesday in March at 10 am in Mater Chapel, level 3, Salmon Building, Raymond Terrace, South Brisbane 4101 QLD. For further information or to RSVP, please contact Mater's Pastoral Care team via email pastoralcare@mater.org.au or phone 07 3163 6729.

Service of remembrance—International pregnancy loss day

This service is held each year on 15 October at 7 pm, in the Corbett Room in the Whitty Building. For further information or to RSVP, please contact Belinda Norman via belinda.norman@mater.org.au or phone 07 3163 3467.

On going support

Pregnancy Assessment Centre (PAC)

We are sorry for your loss and understand that this may be a difficult time for you. We would like to phone you at home next week and ask you some questions about how you are coping.

Counselling services

It is likely that you will feel sad following your loss. For a small group of women, the sadness seems to grow deeper and deeper, and they are left with feelings that they find difficult to cope with and talk about. This is something which is more than grief and help is needed to get back on track. Please speak to your GP if you feel you may need counselling. You are entitled to Medicare funded counselling by a psychologist due to your miscarriage and your GP can arrange this for you.

Pastoral Care

The Pastoral Care Department at Mater is available to provide spiritual and emotional support. The pastoral care workers are professionals trained in the skills of supportive and person-centred listening. Privacy, confidentiality and the rights of individual choices without discrimination are honoured and respected. Pastoral Care can be contacted via the main switch on 07 3840 8111, or directly through the Pastoral Care Department on 07 3163 6729, from Monday to Friday between 7.30 am to 4 pm. They can also be contacted via pastoralcare@mater.org.au.

Social Work

Experienced social workers can provide supportive counselling that may assist you in processing your feelings and emotions at this difficult time. Counselling can also provide the opportunity to discuss how the loss of your baby might affect you, your partner and your family both now and in the future. If needed, social workers can also refer you to community resources for further support. You can ask any of the staff who are caring for you to make a referral to a social worker or you can phone 07 3163 8031 from Monday to Friday between 8.30 am to 4 pm to make an appointment.

Our Mission

In the spirit of the Sisters of Mercy, Mater offers compassionate services to the sick and needy, promotes a holistic approach to healthcare in response to changing community needs and fosters high standards in health-related education and research. Following the example of Christ the healer, we commit ourselves to offering these services to all without discrimination. 

Community support

SANDS

Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Support Group (Qld) are a volunteer organisation that provides support for parents and families who have experienced miscarriage, stillbirth or neonatal death. You may be asked to leave a telephone message, so please leave your name and number and they will return your call as soon as possible.

Phone: 07 3254 3422 or 1800 228 655 (outside the Brisbane metropolitan area)

Email: sandsqld@powerup.com.au

Website: www.sandsqld.com

Lifeline

Lifeline provides 24 hour access to crisis support services.

Phone: 13 11 14

Web: www.lifeline.org.au

Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue provides support for people suffering from depression and anxiety.

Phone: 1300 22 4636, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Web: www.beyondblue.org.au

Pregnancy Assessment Unit (open 24 hours)

Level 5, Mater Mothers’ Hospitals

Raymond Terrace, South Brisbane Qld 4101

Phone: 07 3163 7000

matermothers.org.au

Mater acknowledges consumer consultation in the development of this patient information.
Mater Doc Num: PI-CLN-430047
Last modified 26/7/2019.
Consumers were consulted in the development of this patient information.
Last consumer engagement date: 30/3/2017
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