We are very sorry you have to access this guide. The death of a baby is a devastating loss and we know how much more distressing this is likely to be at a time of uncertainty and worry over how medical and public services operate.

Please remember to follow government advice about staying alert and safe (social distancing) that is in place where you live:

·         England

·         Northern Ireland

·         Scotland

·         Wales

If you have concerns about yourself or someone else developing symptoms please refer to NHS 111 advice about Covid-19.

Throughout this time, our bereavement support services remain available to anyone affected by the death of a baby, bereaved parents, family members and healthcare staff.

Our freephone helpline is available to call on 0808 164 3332 or email helpline@sands.org.uk

The opening hours are 9.30am to 5.30pm Monday to Friday and 5.30-9.30pm Tuesday and Thursday evenings.

At Sands we understand that making arrangements following the death of your baby is not something you expected to be doing and it can be hard to think about the choices you have. At this time, when there are government restrictions to prevent the spread of Covid-19, there are some changes to what you might expect, for example around the breadth of choices available to you. We have written a guide to support you during your time in hospital, making choices about a post mortem, when registering a stillbirth or neonatal death and when arranging for a funeral, cremation or memorial service.

Due to the changing nature of the current situation and the differences in England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland we have included links to ensure you can access the most up-to-date information.

Giving birth to your baby who died before labour began

If your baby has died before labour, you will need to attend hospital to deliver your baby. The choices about where you can give birth and who can attend hospital to support you may be affected by the current COVID-19 situation. Your midwife or doctor will be able to talk with you about what is possible locally and what to expect when you go to hospital. They can tell you about how visiting will work and what support you can expect from healthcare professionals after your baby is born.

You can read general information for any woman giving birth from Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists here and from Royal College of Midwives here.

If you feel unsure about making decisions about the birth choices available, maternity staff are there to listen and to support you. It may help to talk it through with family and friends.

Care if your baby died during labour or soon after birth

If your baby died during labour or soon after birth, maternity staff will talk with you about your care while you stay in hospital, what support you can expect from health care professionals and about visiting. Every effort will be made to give you the support you need and help you through the choices you make about yourself and your baby.

You can request a Sands Bereavement Support book from your hospital, which is available to download through a free app or as a physical book. Hospitals may also still be able to provide you with a memory box to offer you the option of making memories during time with your baby. You can also order a memory box or a Sands Bereavement Support Book through the Sands online shop for free or by contacting the Sands Helpline helpline@sands.org.uk

Registering a baby after a stillbirth or neonatal death

Appointments to register stillbirths or deaths in England, Northern Ireland and Wales may be taking place under new guidance in your local office, so do check with them prior to attending in person.

Each local authority will have contact details for enquiries on their current procedures, so ensure you consult their web page. For the up-to-date government guidance go to:

·         Register a stillbirth in England and Wales 

·         Register a stillbirth in Northern Ireland

In Scotland, arrangements are slightly different. Stillbirths and deaths are being registered remotely via phone and email. Birth registrations are being reintroduced on a specific timetable.

You can download National Record of Scotland’s list of registration offices here.

Funeral arrangements for your baby

Making arrangements for a baby’s funeral is something which parents do not expect to do and which feels against the natural order of things. You may never have arranged a funeral before and feel overwhelmed by the amount of things to consider.

Please be assured that feelings like this are normal and does not change the bond you have with your baby. Your healthcare team, funeral director and friends and family are there to support you, as is the Sands Helpline, app and online community.

For the most up-to-date advice on current government guidelines around funeral arrangements, please read this guidance from the National Association of Funeral Directors

In England, advice is that funerals should be limited to 30 people and maintain current social distancing guidelines

The guidelines in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are slightly different.

Cremations and collection of ashes

As the situation relating to Covid-19 changes, it is advisable to speak to your hospital, funeral director or crematorium directly to ensure you have the most up-to-date information on what is possible in your area.

At Sands, we are here to support you and would like to remind you of the options to discuss any concerns or worries with our trained staff via our Helpline, email or Facebook page.

Attending a baby’s funeral

The funeral you arrange for your baby can have as many personal elements as you wish but will need to consider keeping vulnerable people safe and adhering to current social distancing guidelines.

In England, the current guidance is a limit of 30 people attending a funeral. Limiting attendees must be done sensitively and take account of individual circumstances. This may mean that a baby’s parents can be consulted on the people whom they feel are closest to them when saying goodbye to their baby and suitable arrangements can be made. Webcasts may be available at a cost for those not attending.

All charitable collections should be done online. Sands fundraising team will gladly support you if you email them at fundraising@sands.org.uk or share the link www.sands.org.uk/give-memory

Memorials for babies

Whether you hold your baby’s memorial service now or in future, you may consider holding memorials in the following ways:

  • Using video call, by means of a group platform that enables people to participate from home
  • Making a recording or video of you and the people you live with commemorating your baby with readings, songs, or any other activities special to you and sharing it with those who can’t be there
  • Agreeing for your family and friends to engage in the same activity on a specific day to commemorate your baby (crafting, gardening, art or music for example)
  • Creating something that your loved ones can see and create their own versions of, with a view to merging the various items at a later date

You may get some ideas for poems and readings and readings from our virtual remembrance event

We also have a permanent dedication page where you can share a photo and leave a message in memory of your baby

Reviews and investigations after a baby is stillborn or dies after birth

Post mortem

A post mortem (also called an autopsy) is the medical examination to help understand any factors that might have contributed to your baby’s death. There is more information about how and when this might happen on the Sands website here.

During the coronavirus pandemic, how and when these examination take place may change. Please speak to healthcare staff supporting you about changes that will affect you. There may be a longer wait for the investigation to happen and it likely that there will be a longer wait for results.

Hospital review

As a bereaved parent, you should be told by your hospital that a review is going to take place and be offered the opportunity to ask questions or provide information about your care for the review panel consider.

During this pandemic, with pressures on staffing, it is likely that some reviews may not happen as soon after a death as would be ideal. If you have not been informed about progress with reviewing your baby’s care, you can ask your health carers about it. You might think about noting down anything about your care that you want to remember while it is fresh in your mind, to share when the review does take place.

Other investigations after a death

As with the post mortem and hospital reviews, other investigations and reviews  may be delayed in the current crisis. Your health care team should keep you informed about everything that is being done to understand your baby’s death, and what you can expect.

We hope this guide has been helpful and once again would like to express our sincere condolences at this immensely distressing time. Sands is here to support you and we would love to hear from you if you feel we can be of help.

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