Information and support in one place.

Losing a child at any age is devastating and traumatic. However, it can be particularly distressing and shocking when you lose a child during your pregnancy or shortly after birth. Often the terminology used, or the information provided, can be difficult to understand and comprehend in what are extremely difficult times.

Much of the terms used depend on the medical and legal definition and can often feel clinical, cold, or inconsiderate. However, here we will try and set out some information that may provide some guidance and insight.

What is it? A definition

The definition of a neonatal death refers to a baby who has died in the first 28 days of life. Unlike a stillbirth, this definition covers a liveborn child – a child born at any gestation showing signs of life at delivery.

The terminology at the point of birth changes, in that your child is no longer referred to as a foetus in the mother’s womb and becomes its own individual person. For this reason, any liveborn child who subsequently dies, at whatever point in their life, must be registered by law. A registration of birth and death is required.

Causes – common examples

Despite significant and extensive research into neonatal deaths, the risk can never be eradicated completely. However, there are occasions when lack of treatment, or substandard treatment, contributes to a neonatal death. The possible causes and factors in neonatal deaths are varied and vast and can mirror issues that contribute to stillbirth cases.

The most common causes for neonatal death are:

  • Premature birth – a baby born before 37 weeks gestation is more likely to experience life-threatening complications
  • Complications during birth (link to other sections) – such as lack of oxygen
  • Birth defects – internal or external defects affecting the baby’s health, development and growth
  • Low birth weight – any baby weighing less than 2.5g is high risk
  • Genetic conditions
  • Infections acquired in the womb before birth- such as Hepatitis B, Group Strep B
  • Infections acquired after birth – from external sources such as sepsis
  • Problems developed during pregnancy – such as issues with the placenta and umbilical cord, preeclampsia
  • hypocalcaemia and issues related to food and nutrition

Whilst some of these causes cannot be avoided entirely there are examples when negligent care provided during the pregnancy or birth contribute to these risks. A lot of these conditions can be diagnosed and treated with prompt action from the medical staff. Negligence can occur when these symptoms are missed, ignored, or diagnosed too late.

What is clear is that with earlier diagnosis and treatment, the better the chance of survival for your baby. Treatment needs to be acute and immediate. Ideally, treatment should be provided in a dedicated neonatal treatment centre with appropriate equipment and specialist medical staff. In cases where there is no specialist neonatal unit, specialist input can be obtained from these centres remotely and on occasions it may be appropriate and safe to transfer your child. In cases where this is not possible, either due to the child’s or mothers’ ill health, specialist care will still be provided by the hospitals dedicated paediatric and intensive care team.

The charities and organisations listed below can help with emotional and practical support for parents, siblings and grandparents.

Some cases, if the cause of death is uncertain or unclear a post-mortem may be required to determine the cause of death. In some circumstances the case may be referred to the local coroner for further investigation. We also have more information about Inquests here.

Support organisations and charities

When a family loses a child or young adult the effects are devastating for all who knew and loved them.

Our mission is to ensure that all those affected by the sudden and traumatic death of a child or young adult aged 25 or under throughout Wales receive the bereavement support they deserve.

Support organisations and charities

Aching Arms is here to help and support you when you’ve experienced the heartbreak of losing your baby, during pregnancy, at birth or soon after.

We offer a beautiful comfort bear to fill your arms and a community to support you as you grieve. Each Aching Arms bear is given as a gift from one bereaved family to another, to let you know that you are not alone.

When you need us, our Supporting Arms service is here for you. The service is run by bereaved parents and gives you the opportunity to talk to someone who has an understanding of what you’re going through.

Related support.

View all advice

Maternal birth injury

Unfortunately a lot of women do suffer from an injury during the birth process which can cause a lot of trauma, longer recovery and can even affect women’s day to day quality of life.

Maternal mental health

Many women will seek help for their child who might have suffered an injury but often forget the importance of their mental health.

Legal advice.

The birth of a child should be a time of happiness, excitement and celebration. Sadly, when negligent mistakes are made by medical professionals the result is pain, heartache and frustration for parents and the wider family.

If you believe that you have a birth injury negligence claim in relation to any wrong or mistreatment you received during birth, then please contact a member of our medical negligence specialist team today. We are dedicated to your best interests and can advise you on how to proceed. If after talking to us you decide not to take matters further you are under no obligation to do so and you will not be charged for our initial advice session.

Visit Hugh James Website

We want your feedback.

Has the Birth Injury Hub been helpful? Let us know.

Contact Us