What to do first
You’ll need to get the medical certificate of cause of death (MCCD) or the certificate of stillbirth from the staff. If your baby was born alive you’ll also be given a birth card.
You must register the death. You’ll need the MCCD or certificate of stillbirth to do this. If your baby was born alive, you’ll also need to register your baby’s birth.
You should think about the funeral. Many hospitals will have an arrangement with a particular funeral director, or can put you in touch with one, or you can contact a funeral director of your choice. You can speak with the funeral director before you register the death if you wish.
From 13th of May 2015, changes were made to the way that deaths are registered in Scotland, this means that all deaths must be registered before a burial or cremation takes place. Consideration will be given to special circumstances. Find out more about the changes on the Healthcare Improvement Scotland website.
You may need help to do all these things. Relatives, friends or neighbours may be able to support you.
Taking your baby home
Some parents may wish to take their baby home until the funeral. If you’d like to do this please let the midwife caring for you know.
You’ll be able to take your baby home in your car, but hospital staff may need to inform the police that you are doing this in case you are involved in an accident or stopped by police for any reason.
Once you’re at home you may be asked to contact the hospital ward to let them know you’ve arrived safely.
When a post-mortem is to be carried out it’s best to discuss with the funeral director your wish to take your baby home. You will be sensitively advised as to how you can manage this. The funeral director will arrange to bring your baby from the hospital to your home.
Registering the death
You must register the death within 8 days and a stillbirth within 21 days. You can do this at any registrar’s office in Scotland. You should phone the registrar’s office before you go there as you may need to make an appointment to register a death.
As of the 13th of May 2015, the Scottish Government introduced changes to the way in which deaths are certified and registered in Scotland. Find out more on the Healthcare Improvement Scotland website.
You can find the contact details of local registrar’s offices in the phone book under ‘registration of births, death and marriages’, or on the National Records of Scotland website.
Registering the death
Either or both parents are required to do this, depending on marital status.
If parents are not married, under Scottish law, only the mother can register the death. However, it may be possible to add the father’s name later. Further advice is available from the registrar.
What you will need to register the death
To register the death you’ll need the medical certificate of cause of death (MCCD) or the certificate of stillbirth. It is helpful if you can also take your marriage certificate if available. Don’t worry if you can’t find these, the registrar will be able to help you.
How to register the death
If your baby was stillborn, you’ll be given a certificate of stillbirth from the hospital doctor or midwife, stating that your baby was stillborn. You need to take this to the registrar of births, deaths and marriages. The registrar will give you a certificate of registration of stillbirth. This is required before burial or cremation and should be handed over to the funeral director.
If your baby was born alive (at any stage of pregnancy) and then died, you will be given both a MCCD and a birth card by the hospital doctor or midwife. You need to take these to the registrar of births, deaths and marriages. The registrar will give you a certificate of registration of birth and a certificate of registration of death. The certificate of registration of death is required before burial or cremation and should be handed over to the funeral director.
The registrar will give you:
- a certificate of registration of stillbirth or a registration of death to give to the funeral director
- an abbreviated version of the death/stillbirth certificate
- a copy of the full certificate(s), you should request this at the time of registration
For more information, go to the National Records of Scotland website or ask at the registrar’s office
You can speak to a funeral director as soon as you feel ready. However, do not feel you have to rush. Taking your time may make planning the funeral easier.
From 13th May 2015, changes to the way that deaths are registered in Scotland will mean that all deaths must be registered before a burial or cremation takes place. Consideration will be given to special circumstances. Find out more about the changes on the Healthcare Improvement Scotland website.
You don’t have to use a funeral director, although most parents find this helpful.
If you wish to use the services of a funeral director, the hospital may have a preferred funeral director or you can contact a funeral director of your own choice.
How do I know if I can afford to pay for the funeral?
Funeral costs vary and you may wish to ask several funeral directors about the service they provide. Funeral directors should explain their costs and give you a written estimate.
Most funeral directors will provide this service for a minimal charge, and some may make no charge at all. Many hospitals will cover all or part of the cost of a stillbirth funeral.
Parents receiving certain benefits or tax credits may be able to apply for a funeral payment from the Social Fund. To find out if you qualify, you can:
Your funeral director or Citizens Advice Scotland may be able to advise you. You should tell the funeral director as soon as possible if you intend to apply for a funeral payment.
As you try to cope with the emotional upheaval following the death of your baby, the following thoughts may be helpful.
Take your time
You may feel numb, or find it difficult to believe what’s happened. You may feel sad, angry or guilty. You may also feel panicky about what needs to be done, or about what lies ahead.
It’s important, especially in the first few days, that you allow yourself:
- time to take in what has happened
- time to talk about the baby who has died
- time to feel the pain and the loneliness
- time for yourself
When a baby dies, often the first emotion parents feel is disbelief and the situation can feel quite unreal. Parents may find themselves experiencing a wide range of feelings and these can include anguish, sadness, guilt, fear, anger, numbness or emptiness.
Physical symptoms may also be experienced and you may have difficulty eating, sleeping or coping with everyday activities. All of these feelings are very normal and may vary in intensity. These feelings may last for a long time, leaving you feeling emotionally and physically drained.
When a baby dies, everyone close will feel the loss, although no two people will think or feel the same way and this includes the parents. Partners may be the greatest comfort to each other but, in some cases, they may not be able to grieve together.
It’s impossible to generalise reactions to grief, men and women tend to grieve in different ways. Women tend to be more able to show their emotions, while men, although equally distressed, may hide their emotions or even put their emotions on hold.
Do it your way
We’re all different, and we react to death in different ways. Bereavement and grief are painful experiences and learning to live with loss is hard. You may find you want to be alone or that you need someone to be with you all the time.
There’s no right or wrong way to grieve, just try to do what feels right for you.
Finally, it’s important not to expect too much of yourself and to know when to ask for help. The death of a baby is a major event in anybody’s life and there are no quick ways of adjusting.
It can be helpful to find someone you trust and who you can to talk to, for example a friend, your doctor, your midwife or a religious leader. If after a while you feel you’re still not coping, you may want to speak with your doctor or midwife.
The rules regarding benefits are complex, and you should check on the Gov.uk website.
- Maternity rights: If your baby was stillborn after 24 weeks of pregnancy or if your baby was born and died soon after birth (at any stage in your pregnancy), you are entitled to all of your maternity rights
- Paternity rights: If you have been working for your employer for at least 26 weeks up until the 15th week before your baby was due, you are entitled to 2 consecutive weeks paternity leave
- Child benefit: If your baby was born alive and died shortly afterwards, at any time during your pregnancy, you are entitled to child benefit
- Tax credits: If your baby was born alive and died shortly afterwards, at any time during your pregnancy, you may be entitled to a tax credit