Shaken Baby Syndrome

A large number of child deaths are reported in South Africa each year. A lot of deaths relate to neglect, abuse or murder. Despite this, there's a knowledge gap in relation to understanding the issue....

Amniotic fluid problems

The importance of amniotic fluid Amniotic fluid is essential for pregnancy and foetal development. Amniotic fluid is a watery substances residing inside a casing called the amniotic membrane or sac. ...

Choosing a pre-school

Becoming a parent is a momentous; life-changing event filled with hopes, expectations and naturally some fears. Parents often learn and grow alongside their children, as they face the challenges of pa...

Newborn reflexes

Although newborn babies are physically helpless and vulnerable at birth, they have a number of amazing innate abilities or reflexes. Reflexes are involuntary movements or actions, designed to protect ...

Mastitis

Mastitis is an inflammation of the breast that can lead to infection. The word “mastitis” is derived from the Greek word “mastos” meaning “breasts”, while the suffix “-itis” denotes “inflammation”. Ma...

Pelvic floor exercises

Although your new baby will probably bring you immense emotional satisfaction, physically you may feel uncomfortable and strange in your own skin. After 9 months of pregnancy and hormonal changes, you...

Colic

Babies cry because they need to communicate something and most parents, especially new moms, find it distressing to see or hear an unhappy baby. In time, you will learn to recognize the various causes...

Antenatal Classes

Antenatal classes are informative sessions provided to prepare expecting parents for the birth of their child and the early days of being a parent.Most antenatal classes are run by Midwives and occasi...

Strap-in-the-Future

The Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020 was launched on the 11 May 2011. It is a global declaration of war against road crashes and fatalities. According to Mr Sibusiso Ndebele, MP Minister of ...

  • Shaken Baby Syndrome

    Tuesday, 21 July 2015 16:28
  • Amniotic fluid problems

    Thursday, 14 May 2015 12:54
  • Choosing a pre-school

    Friday, 10 April 2015 17:50
  • Newborn reflexes

    Tuesday, 03 March 2015 15:49
  • Mastitis

    Tuesday, 03 March 2015 15:41
  • Pelvic floor exercises

    Wednesday, 11 February 2015 17:20
  • Colic

    Wednesday, 11 February 2015 17:11
  • Antenatal Classes

    Monday, 03 June 2013 09:34
  • Strap-in-the-Future

    Thursday, 30 June 2011 13:52

Stillbirth

still birthIn the natural course of events, babies are not expected to die. And when they do, the shock, loss and devastation can be overwhelming. Parents, who were anxiously awaiting a baby, are suddenly faced with a child they may meet briefly but have to say goodbye to simultaneously. Any hopes, dreams and wishes that they had for their family are replaced by a tragic loss. Instead of new life, they are faced with a long and painful grieving process. Mourning the loss of a loved one, particularly the loss of a child, is a necessary but emotionally arduous journey, which eventually results in healing.

Grieving is a highly individual and often agonizing process, but it allows you to make meaning out of your loss and of life without your baby. In the words of Kathy Gebel, "I will always feel a sadness over the loss of my daughter, but I hope as I carve out a place for her to live forever in my heart, it's a sadness that won't bind me. I am forever changed, but it would be a great disservice to Elizabeth's memory if I allowed that change to be a negative one".

Stillbirth is the death of an unborn baby occurring after 20 weeks or more gestation. Stillbirth does not discriminate; it affects women from all socio-economic classes, races, religions, body types and maternal age groups. Stillbirth describes when a baby dies and is not the cause of death. In 20% of cases the cause of death is unknown, but in others, one or more factors may play a causative role. Some of the most common causes include birth defects (chromosomal abnormality such as Down Syndrome); placental problems (placental abruption); poor fetal growth; cord accidents; infections in the mother, baby or placenta; and chronic maternal health conditions (such as diabetes or kidney disease).

According to the South African Medical Research Council, 2.6 million babies are stillborn worldwide every year. In South Africa approximately 6o babies are stillborn on a daily basis. There is a frequent misconception that parents, who have lost a child in this way, do not miss their babies because they never took a breath out the womb. Parents miss their stillborn children just as much as those whose babies are born alive.

People cope with the trauma of losing a baby in different ways. Some couples wish to return to normal as soon as possible and find comfort in their previous routine, others may feel the need to withdraw to mark the loss of their child, and for some the distress is too great that they deny their loss, feeling as if some colossal mistake has been made. Some couples find the idea of having another baby unthinkable while others are overwhelmed by the urge to become pregnant immediately. "In the Stillness of My Heart" Kathy Gebel describes her anguish of losing a child in this way. She points out the tragedy of being misunderstood because some people don't consider stillbirth to be a true death and as a result downplay the loss of the parents. In reality parents of a stillborn baby have "very few memories and all of the pain".

Coping with the loss of a child:

Although grieving is an individual process and there are no stipulations of what to do or how to do when losing a child, it may be helpful and reassuring to keep the following in mind:

It is recommended that families spend time with and hold their stillborn baby. Most stillborn babies look beautiful, as if they are sleeping. If you get the chance wash or bathe your baby, rock or sing to them, and name your little one. Initially this may be particularly difficult because after meeting your child you have to let them go. Many parents express gratitude at being given the opportunity to say goodbye and pay tribute to their baby. Do what you instinctively feel is right for you and in accordance with your religious, cultural and personal beliefs. Some families have a service for their baby too.

Parents are encouraged to take or have pictures taken of their baby. You may not want these initially but may regret not doing so sometime in the future. These photos may serve as a source of comfort and remembrance. Other mementos include footprints, handprints, plaster casts and clothing. It may seem strange to gather these items at the time and parents may not think to do so; but these items become priceless in the future.

Keep the lines of communication open within your family. It is ok to talk about your baby to others. They were a member of your family and part of you, even before they came into this world. You felt their kicks and movements, and as parents you felt the need to protect them even before they were born. Your expectation was to hold them, touch them and watch them grow, and not being able to do so may result in depression, anger, withdrawal, feelings of numbness, empty arms or abandonment, and a deep sense of pain.

When you get home after the stillbirth, the nursery or some of your baby's things may still be up, such as their crib, changing table or clothes. In your own time, either alone or with your partner, family or close friend, begin to put these items away. Allow yourself and your body time to realize that you have lost a baby. Some grieving parents feel the need to go into their baby's nursery to feel closer to their child. This may help in the healing process.

Men and women often tend to deal with emotion and grieve differently. Although some men may not be as overtly emotional as women, they are also experiencing the devastating loss of a child. Some men may feel the need to go back to work as soon as possible. This withdrawal and the ability to keep busy, helps take their mind off their loss. It is common for men to be worried about mom and to go through a stage where they feel a sense of failure. In our society, men are often the head of the household and the protector of the family. When faced with a stillbirth, they may feel they did not fulfill this role. From a young age some men are taught that "boys don't cry" and instead mourn through anger.

Many women feel a sense of guilt. They blame themselves or their bodies for losing the baby. They may explore as much information about stillbirths possible, in order to try and understand why this happened.

As a couple, try and communicate in your pain and be gentle on yourselves. There will be good days and bad days. Days where you feel deeply connected to one another and those where you feel alone in your grief. Make time for yourselves as a couple.

Join a support group and talk to other parents who have experienced the loss of a child. There is comfort in sharing and hearing one another's stories.

References

Kathy Gebel. In the Stillness of My Heart. Canadianliving.com. Nov 2008. http://www.canadianliving.com/health/mind_and_spirit/personal_essay_in_the_stillness_of_my_heart_5.php. Published November 2008. Accessed June 20 2012.

Baby Centre Canada. When a baby is stillborn? http://www.babycenter.ca/pregnancy/griefandloss/understandingstillbirth/#14. Reviewed March, 2012. Accessed June 23, 2012.

City Press. SA experiences 60 stillbirths a day. New24.com. http://www.citypress.co.za/SouthAfrica/News/SA-experiences-60-stillbirths-a-day-20110415-2. Published April 15, 2011. Accessed June 24, 2012.

Yahoo Voices. Coping when parents have a stillbirth. Yahoovoices.com. http://voices.yahoo.com/. Published April 13, 2007. Accessed June 23, 2012.

First Candle. About Stillbirth. Firstcandle.org. http://www.firstcandle.org/new-expectant-parents/about-stillbirth/stillbirth-faq/. Updated January 13, 2010. Accessed June 20, 2010.

WISSP. When your baby is stillborn. WISSP. http://www2.marshfieldclinic.org/wissp/index.html. Accessed June 20, 2012.