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Program Expansion

Fetal Bereavement Considerations

Bereavement Considerations

While there are many similarities in fetal death grief issues with those surrounding SIDS, there are also some differences. While miscarriages are the most frequent perinatal loss, it is also the most unacknowledged loss. It is estimated that one-third of all pregnancies result in a miscarriage. Some mothers may experience feelings of responsibility, guilt or personal failure, especially if they have experienced multiple miscarriages.

For some stillbirths, mothers may not be aware that their child has died until the actual birth, while other mothers may have known the child had died. In these cases, the mother may have carried the child to term knowing the outcome. Mothers may have post-partum physical reactions including breast fullness and normal hormonal blues.

In the United States, 50 percent of stillbirths have no known cause. Unlike a SIDS death or a child death, parents who have a stillborn baby may not have anyone investigate the death. As a result, they may have feelings that no one cared and their infant was unimportant.

After a stillbirth or miscarriage, families rarely have many memories or mementos. RTS Bereavement Services conducted a study of families who experienced a miscarriage and found that 75 percent of the participants were grieving. The most critical question in the survey in determining the feelings families had toward the loss was whether the participants thought of the pregnancy as a baby. Often, families experiencing a miscarriage or stillbirth have to fight to have their loss viewed as the loss of a baby, not a fetus.