We realise that this is a very difficult and distressing time for you and we offer our condolences.
Many parents worry about what will happen to their baby following a pregnancy loss. We will always treat you and your baby with dignity and respect. We will use the word ‘baby’ when referring to your baby/ fetus or fetal tissue.
There will be the opportunity for you to speak with ward staff who can explain this process further and offer you support, and this page aims to help you have a better understanding of what happens to your baby after your loss and explains the difficult choices and decisions you will need to make.
What happens to your baby?
Unfortunately, you will need to make some difficult choices with regards to testing and funeral arrangements for your baby, and these will be explained to you by our staff. We will need you to sign a consent form once you have made your decision. Further information will be available from the nurse or midwife looking after you.
We will support you if you wish to see and hold your baby. Mementoes such as scan photos, memory boxes or photographs may help if available.
Once you have been discharged from hospital and any test samples have been obtained, your baby will be taken to the hospital mortuary where your baby will remain until the funeral.
Investigations and consent for examination
Please understand that we will not perform any tests without your consent but if you do give it, the results are unlikely to tell us why you have lost your baby.
The following sections explain more about tests that may be offered following the loss of your baby.
This is sometimes offered following a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy.
Unfortunately, this test will not tell us why you have lost your baby. It is performed to confirm that the tissue that you have passed, or tissue removed at the time of surgery, is pregnancy tissue. The baby will never be sent for histology.
It is also used to exclude a rare form of miscarriage called hydatidiform mole.
The test involves a small piece of pregnancy tissue being dissected, stained with chemicals and closely examined under a microscope. This sample is stored on a glass slide and wax blocks and needs to be retained for 30 years as part of your medical record. These samples are then sent for hospital incineration.
Any tissue that is not tested will be sent for communal cremation; this is consented to when
agreeing to histology testing.
Sometimes there will be no remaining pregnancy tissue on completion of this test, however, it may still be possible to arrange a Service of Blessing by contacting the Department of Pastoral and Spiritual Care.
It can take between six to eight weeks for us to receive the histology test results.
Most of the time, the result will be normal. You will only be contacted about these results if we are concerned you may need further investigation or treatment.
You can request to organise baby’s cremation service before the histology has been returned,
depending on the gestation, so that this isn’t delayed. Please talk to a member of our staff about your wishes.
Genetic testing is only offered in rare circumstances such as late miscarriage, recurrent miscarriage (three or more miscarriages in a row) or if a genetic abnormality is suspected. The decision to undertake genetic testing should be discussed in detail with your consultant.
Genetic testing will not tell us why you have miscarried, but it may identify if the baby
had a genetic abnormality.
The test can be done on a small piece of placental tissue. This testing is undertaken at a specialist laboratory at Sheffield Women’s Hospital. It may take several weeks for the results to be made available.
Any remaining tissue will be disposed of by a communal cremation at your local crematorium and this is consented to at the time of the genetic testing.
Post-mortem examination is only offered in rare circumstances of late miscarriage or termination of pregnancy for fetal abnormality. The decision to undertake a post-mortem examination will be discussed in detail with your consultant and you will be asked to sign a separate consent form.
If you have consented to a post-mortem examination or detailed examination of your baby, a pathologist in Sheffield will perform the examination.
If an examination or post-mortem examination is required, there may be a delay in the service taking place as it takes up to two – three weeks for your baby to be returned to the hospital mortuary. It can take up to 12 weeks for the hospital to receive results of the post-mortem examination.
Any remaining tissue will be returned to the hospital mortuary to be handled in a sensitive manner in line with your wishes documented on the consent form.
There are several funeral arrangement options available to you, as described below, and these options will be discussed with you by your nurse, midwife or doctor.
You will be asked to sign a consent form on your preferred choice once you have made your
Communal cremations are arranged and paid for by the hospital on your behalf.
Parents can attend a communal baby service, if you wish. You will be invited on a specific day and time by the Department for Pastoral and Spiritual Care.
Your baby will be individually identified and placed in an enclosed box.
Cremation of your baby will take place at the same time as other baby cremations at your local crematorium. Words of commendation will be said before the cremation.
If you attend the communal service, you will be given a card advising them of the time and date the following month of the Scattering of the Ashes which you can also attend.
Sadly, it is not possible to retrieve any ashes for your individual baby following a communal cremation. However, any cremated remains are scattered in a dignified manner in a memorial garden at the respective cemeteries.
At Grimsby crematorium, the baby memorial area is in Plot O. At Scunthorpe, ashes are scattered around a special memorial stone in the baby memorial garden.
Individual burial, arranged by the hospital
Unfortunately, it is not usually possible for the hospital to make arrangements for burial of your baby unless you request this for specific cultural reasons. A burial will incur a charge that you will have to pay.
Should you have any further questions about individual burial please contact your own faith/ belief advisor.
Private cremation or burial by an undertaker
It is possible to make arrangements for an individual cremation or burial for your baby by an undertaker of your choice.
You would need to contact a local funeral director, who will then help you to make decisions about what type of service you would like.
Some funeral directors provide this service for free, but costs may be incurred depending on your individual requirements.
Alternatively, you may wish to contact your own faith/ belief advisor directly.
Careful thought must be given when considering a burial at home. For example, you will need to consider what would happen if you moved house, or if the land is used for a new purpose in the future. One thing to consider is using a garden pot, that could be moved if necessary.
Written permission must be obtained from the landowner if you do not own the land where a burial is to take place.
If you are collecting your baby yourself, you must remember to bring a suitable container with you. Small caskets are available from your local undertaker. Collection must be made by prior arrangement with the mortuary staff.
SANDS guidelines recommend that for burial of a baby under 24 weeks gestation, the grave is at a depth of at least 18 inches (45 cms).
The grave also must not:
- Cause any dangers to others
- Interfere with any rights other people may have on the land
- Be a danger to water supplies or watercourses.
- There must also be no chance of bodily fluids leaking into or onto adjoining land.
You may find that it is difficult to think things through at the moment. This can be normal after losing a baby.
After a few months or even a couple of years you may begin to want to talk about what has happened. You are welcome to phone the Department of Pastoral & Spiritual Care (DPSC) to arrange to see the Chaplain, or you may like to join a baby loss support group.
The Bereavement Midwife may also be able to offer support.
Please contact your Nurse, Midwife, Bereavement Midwife or DPSC, if you have any further questions or if you need further support.
We welcome your suggestions on the service that we offer. If you have any comments or suggestions please speak to your Nurse, Midwife, Bereavement Midwife or DPSC.
National support groups
Grimsby and Cleethorpes SANDS (Stillbirth and neonatal death society): The group meets on the first Wednesday of the month, from 7.30pm to 9.30pm, at the Holiday Inn Express, 3-9 Wellowgate, Grimsby, DN32 0RA.
Scunthorpe SANDS (Stillbirth and neonatal death society): The group meets on the second Wednesday of the month, from 7.15pm to 9.15pm, at 1 Printers Yard, Fenton Street, Scunthorpe, DN15 6QX.
Tel: 07522 938821
Date of issues: December 2023
Review period: December 2026