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Early pregnancy loss—sensitive care at a difficult time

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. Some cope well at the time, but find a great sadness engulfs them later on. 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 be reassured that it is extremely unlikely that anything you did caused your miscarriage. Women and their partners may blame themselves for a miscarriage, but it is very seldom anything they have done, or not done, that causes the 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 among parents whose baby has died and these feelings are natural. It is important to acknowledge and accept your feelings and experience as a part of the grieving process as you come to terms with your loss.

Partners

Partners are likely to feel upset because of the distress you have gone through, as well as for the loss of the baby. You may be able to support each other very well, and may even feel that this experience has brought you closer together. However, grief can put a strain on even the closest relationships, especially over time. 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 months. Your partner may feel guilty because you are the one that had to go through the physical experience of miscarriage.

Sometimes partners feel powerless to help. Some concentrate on “being strong”. The downside is that they may end up feeling isolated, with no-one to talk to. They may also hide their feelings so well that they appear not to care. Some couples experience very different feelings about a miscarriage. If you are much more upset than your partner, then s/he 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 a lot of 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 very lonely and unsupported and it may be even more important to find support from someone else.

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. If you would like further information about children and grief, please contact the Mater Mothers’ Bereavement Support Service on 07 3163 3467.

Remembering your baby

Creating memories

Don’t hesitate to ask the staff to see your baby, no matter how small he or she is. Some parents find this helpful in the months ahead. Sometimes, however, there may be no baby to see. Giving your baby a name, even though you may not know what sex he or she was can also be helpful. When you go home from hospital you may find it difficult to grieve for your baby because you have no one to clearly remember. For this reason, you may like to create some memories of your baby. Perhaps a symbolic gesture such as planting a tree or a shrub, or creating your own personal memorial may appeal to you. This may take place some weeks or even longer after your pregnancy loss has occurred. It is an opportunity to acknowledge the life of your baby and express your grief.

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 we will arrange this for you.

Memorial service

Within our hospital and beyond, there is a growing recognition of a need for some form of ceremony to acknowledge the reality of the life that is lost and to express the grief that is caused by the loss. In response to this need, our hospital offers a memorial service on a monthly basis. This is a multi-faith service open to all who wish to attend. It is held at 4 pm on the second Wednesday of each month.

Please telephone Pastoral Care for details on 07 3163 6729. You, and those who support you, are invited to attend the next service or any subsequent one. This service is followed by the ceremonial placing of the babies ashes in the memorial garden set aside in the grounds for this purpose. You are welcome to return and visit the garden at any time.

Should you have any questions or just need to talk, please contact the Pastoral Care Department on 07 3163 6729.

Book of remembrance

There is a Book of Remembrance and you are invited to create a page to be placed in this book in memory of your baby. If you would like to know more about this book, please contact the Pastoral Care Department on 07 3163 6729.

What happens to your baby now?

Performing tests and looking for a cause

Following an early pregnancy loss, we often suggest that a pathologist examine the placenta and baby. This information may have value in explaining the reason for this pregnancy loss and in decision making regarding future pregnancies. It is important to acknowledge, however, that frequently no explanation can be found.

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. 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. During this procedure, the pathologist will choose very small samples for further testing. Your baby will be restored to near normal appearance after the examination is completed. Parents are understandably concerned about the care, treatment and disposal of these small amounts of retained tissue. All babies and tissue will be treated with the reverence and dignity required by the philosophy and Mission of the Mater Hospital, and the Sisters of Mercy.

Following examination of your baby and placenta, you can choose from a number of options detailed below.

Hospital Cremation

You may choose to have your baby cremated by the hospital. Your baby’s remains are collectively cremated with other babies that have died in early pregnancy. The babies’ ashes are then placed in the memorial garden following a monthly memorial service.

Funeral service

Babies born after twenty weeks of pregnancy are required by law to be registered and hence a formal burial or cremation is required. Burial or cremation for babies born before twenty weeks gestation is also possible to arrange but is not a legal requirement. There are costs involved with this option. We can provide you with some more information regarding this option if you are interested.

Hospital disposal

You may not desire any formal recognition of your pregnancy loss and may prefer that we deal with any pregnancy tissue. Such tissue will be disposed of with other pathological tissue.

Ongoing support

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 again. We are able to provide this help through professional counselling if it is required

SANDS

Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Support Group (Qld) Inc provides mutual support, information, education and advocacy for parents and families who experience the death of their baby through miscarriage, stillbirth, neonatal death and other reproductive losses. SANDS is a volunteer organisation and you may occasionally get an answering machine at this number or at the contact  numbers given on the first machine. Please leave your name and number and the listener will get back to you as soon as possible, or you could try again later.

Services available

  • telephone support
  • mutual support meetings
  • monthly newsletter
  • library that can be accessed by mail or in person
  • support via email sandsqld@powerup.com.au
  • website www.sandsqld.com
  • available 24 hours, 7 days a week.

Contact Details

SANDS (Qld) Inc. Office
SANDS House
505 Bowen Terrace
New Farm Qld 4005

Ph: 07 3254 3422

Outside the Brisbane Metro area

Ph: 1800 228 655

This information was taken from the SANDS leaflet “Saying good-bye, before you’ve said hello”.

The Pastoral Care Department at Mater offers a range of services and 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

Email: pastoralcare@mater.org.au Monday to Friday 7.30 am to 5 pm.

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 Friday between 8.30 am to 5 pm to make an appointment.

Our Mission

In the spirit of the Sisters of Mercy, Mater Health Services offer compassionate service to the sick and needy, promote a holistic approach to health care in response to changing community needs and foster 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.

Information in this brochure was sourced from the Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit, Level 7, Mater Mothers' Hospitals. Please telephone 07 3163 5132 if you would like to speak to someone from the unit.

Mater Private Emergency Care Centre

Mater Private Hospital Brisbane
301 Vulture Street, South Brisbane Qld 4101
Telephone: 07 3163 1000

www.mater.org.au

© 2010 Mater Misericordiae Ltd. ACN 096 708 922.

Mater acknowledges consumer consultation in the development of this patient information.
Mater Doc Num: HOSP-005-00802
Last modified 12/11/2015.
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