Baby loss certificates introduced for parents who experience a loss of pregnancy before 24 weeks

Last modified on Thursday 22 February 2024

Woman holds ultrasound / woman on bed in pain

The government has launched a way of marking the devastating loss of a baby – and the certificates are now available for application from today

Losing a baby during pregnancy is heartbreaking and until now, there's been no official way of recognising the life of the child if the loss happens before the 24th week of pregnancy.

But from today, grieving parents in England can apply for a certificate, placing the baby in official government records.

Under existing rules, only babies past 24 weeks pregnancy are registered as a stillbirth if they die in the womb, or the parents receive a birth and death certificate if they are born alive but do not survive.


Sad Couple

'Acknowledging their pain'

The new rule has been brought in to ensure bereaved parents feel supported through their grief and to recognise their loss, acknowledging their pain and ensuring they feel heard. 

'Losing a baby can be a hugely traumatic event and the introduction of certificates to formally acknowledge the loss of life is a positive step towards better supporting women and parents affected,' said Health and Social Care Secretary Victoria Atkins.

The certificates will not be compulsory — with the government stating that it remains the choice of parents to manage the devastating time of a loss, however they see fit.   

The introduction of baby loss certificates is part of the priorities set out in the Women’s Health Strategy for England and on recommendations from the Pregnancy Loss Review.

Minister for the Women’s Health Strategy, Maria Caulfield said:  'We have listened to parents who have gone through what can be an unbelievably painful experience of losing a baby, and that is why today we are introducing baby loss certificates to recognise their loss, as part of our wider long-term plan for women’s health in our country, the Women’s Health Strategy.'

'Baby loss is often minimised and treated as a “clinical event“'

Campaigners who have worked for years to see changes made to how pregnancy loss is viewed and recognised say they are 'thrilled' about the introduction of the certificate.

Zoe Clark-Coates founder and CEO of The Mariposa Trust said: 'I’m thrilled that from today millions of families will finally get the formal acknowledgment that their baby existed and I hope this will help their grieving process.'

Meanwhile, bereavement midwife, Samantha Collinge, added: 'Since I was appointed as a bereavement midwife in 1998 I have campaigned for a standardised care pathway that ensures that every parent experiencing baby loss (regardless of the gestation or type of loss ) receives the physical and emotional care and support they deserve.  

'Miscarriage and other types of pre-24 weeks baby loss is often minimised and treated as a “clinical event“ or “just one of those things” rather than the loss of a baby and sadly the emotional impact of the loss is often disregarded. 

'I hope that the introduction of a national certificate of baby loss will give bereaved parents the official recognition that their babies did exist and that their babies lives, however brief really do matter.'

Who can apply for a baby loss certificate?

The certificates can be applied for by bereaved parents who have experienced loss before 24 weeks gestation since 1st September 2018.

You also need to be at least 16 years old, you need to have lived in England when you lost your baby and also currently live in England.

How do I apply for a baby loss certificate?

Visit the website to apply. To complete the application, you’ll need:

  • your NHS number or postcode registered with your GP
  • the mobile phone number or email address registered with your GP
  • permission from the other parent and their email address, if you want their name on the certificate

Clea Harmer, Chief Executive of baby loss charity Sands says, 'As the new Baby Loss Certificate is only currently available to people who are more recently bereaved, Sands’ commemorative 'birth certificates' are still available for any bereaved parents who would like to have them, wherever they live in the UK. 

'A Memorial Book is already available for anyone in Scotland who has experienced pregnancy or baby loss prior to 24 weeks.'

Tommy's, another charity focused on baby loss, estimates that each year in the UK, there are approximately 250,000 cases of miscarriage.

Additionally, about 11,000 women are admitted to hospital due to ectopic pregnancies, a condition where the egg attempts to develop outside the womb. And there are also around 19,000 hospital admissions for molar pregnancies, which are pregnancies that do not develop correctly and ultimately do not succeed.

'The NHS is improving maternity and neonatal bereavement care across England, including by next month bereavement services will be available in almost every NHS Trust, seven days a week for women and families who sadly experience loss,' said Kate Brintworth, Chief Midwifery Officer for England, NHS England.

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