Newborn Loss & Neonatal Death
When a baby dies in the first 28 days of life, it is called neonatal death. Neonatal death represents a significant and complex bereavement and will have profound and devastating effects on the parents, their other children and their wider family and friends. Nothing can prepare someone for finding out their newborn baby will die or has died. Common emotions are to feel shock, fear, anger, numbness, helplessness, worry, disbelief, guilt, isolation to name just a few.
How common is Neonatal Death?
Neonatal death or Newborn baby loss is much more common than many people think. In Ireland, sadly, 1 in every 500 babies will not live past their first 28 days of life.
What are the causes of Neonatal Death?
Delivery complications, congenital abnormalities, premature birth and low birthweight are leading causes of neonatal death. Premature birth and its complications cause about 25 percent of neonatal deaths. The second major cause of neonatal death is congenital abnormalities such as heart or lung defects. Sometimes the cause of death, even with a postmortem, does not always provide a specific reason for what happened and this can be very frustrating.
The death of a baby is an extremely traumatic event for everyone involved, and it will have a profound emotional impact, not only on a woman but also on her partner, friends and family. Dealing with the shock and worry that caring for a very sick baby can take a high emotional toll on a couple.
If the baby is in an intensive care unit the emotional trauma for the parents is immense, sometimes extremely tough decisions may have to be made for a terminally ill baby, decisions that a parent never thought they would have to make. The heartbreaking moments when their baby is dying or shortly after death may be the first time that parents have been able to hold their baby properly.
Due to the hormonal changes in their bodies women may also suffer from postpartum blues as well as having to deal with the physical effects of giving birth and developing milk in their breasts. Sometimes, the emotional impact is felt immediately after finding out that the baby has died, whereas in other cases it can take several weeks to emerge. Some women may even suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome from this traumatic event.
The most common emotions that are felt after having a baby die are grief and bereavement. If parents know their baby is going to die, they may start grieving before the baby has died. Grief and bereavement can cause physical and emotional symptoms.
Physical symptoms of grief and bereavement include:
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Loss of appetite
- Difficulties concentrating
- Sleeping problems
Emotional symptoms of grief and bereavement include:
- Shock and numbness
- Anger (it can be directed to oneself or to other people)
- An overwhelming sense of sadness
Losing a baby is one of the most traumatic events that can happen to a person. Nothing can prepare you for finding out that your child has died. Parents do not expect to be burying their child, especially before their little life has begun. Very often people don’t know how to support you, or they may say the wrong thing, which only adds to your distress.
We are all unique, and our emotions as well as our coping skills are unique to each person as well. We all grieve differently and for different lengths of time, never compare yourself to someone else or judge someone else like your partner on how they are grieving, there is no right or wrong way to grieve.
Some people find it comforting to talk about their feelings, while others find the subject too painful to discuss. Studies have shown it takes longer to deal with grief and may end up causing other mental health issues if you do not talk about it or deal with your grief which is why Nurture Health is here to help you.
You are not alone, and it really is okay to talk about it!
If you are worried that you, your partner or your family are having problems coping with grief or your grief is overwhelming, you may need help and counselling. Nurture Health is here to help.