The Aftermath of Stillbirth
Looking for Reasons
Amidst the terrible grief and emptiness experienced by the loss of their baby, a couple may be plagued with the fear and questions around what happened, why did it happen to them and their baby and, will it happen again. The careful examination of the placenta and the baby after delivery can help to determine the chances of a recurrence. There is a 97% chance the next pregnancy will not end in stillbirth and finding a specific cause may help to determine whether the risk would be higher or lower for that particular family. Healthy pregnancies are possible following a stillbirth.
What Happens to the Mother?
After the stillbirth, the woman still has to recover from the birth. She will bleed heavily and produce milk in her breasts. A well fitting bra, ice packs and medication to dry up the milk will be helpful. It takes time for the milk to finally stop but the breasts will feel less and less full over the ensuing days. If all goes well, she may be released from the hospital within a day and there will likely be some follow-up care arranged from the hospital. An appointment with the doctor for a check-up will come in a few weeks. The medical staff at most hospitals is supportive and helpful and will do their utmost to be of help and comfort.
The Terrible Loss
No one is prepared for the loss of a newborn. Babies are the least of all expected to die and a loss through stillbirth is every bit as devastating as that of the loss of an older child or any loved one for that matter. The grief is deep and natural - the sense of loss of the baby, of the dreams and hopes and longings which were present long before the birth - are all real and painful. Even though most stillbirths are not the result of anything anyone did, parents can often blame themselves for the death of their baby. The intensity of emotions they feel may leave them lonely and longing, as well as feeling helpless and profoundly empty.
The Grieving Process
Grieving is not easy. It is a process of creating meaning out of tragedy. It is long, can be unpredictable and requires energy. In reality, there is nothing anyone can actually do to take away the pain of the loss. Acknowledging the stillborn baby and using the name the parents gave, will help the grieving parents talk about the death and the baby if they choose. Making room for the parents to be validated in their grief is an encouragement for them to share their feelings, which can help them heal. Staying away or saying nothing is sometimes easier, but it isn't helpful. Often just being there to hold a hand and cry with them is more than any words can say. The parents need to know they are free to make decisions and should be supported in whatever decision they choose when it comes to moving forward after the death.
The parents will never stop thinking about their child. Only time will heal the pain.