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City Pregnancy
Counselling & Psychotherapy
A safe space to discuss pregnancy, pregnancy-loss and related issues, in the heart of the City of London
Crisis Pregnancy Help

Stillbirth

Stillbirth, or the death of a baby after 24 weeks of pregnancy but before birth, affects thousands of people in the UK, where around 4,000 babies are stillborn each year (according to the charity Tommy’s). Not everyone’s experience of stillbirth will be the same. Babies can die in the womb or during labour and whilst for some the reasons why it happened will be known, in over 50% of case, it will be unexplained.

However or why ever it happens, stillbirth is a devastating experience. Whilst some people may have experienced it before or know that they are at higher risk, for most it is a totally unexpected and shocking event; the joy of pregnancy suddenly becoming the grief of loss. The aftermath of stillbirth is a grieving process, and not everyone will experience it in the same way or at the same time. Disbelief, intense sadness, isolation, bouts of crying, loneliness, loss of appetite, lack of concentration and feelings of helplessness are common reactions. Many parents also feel intense guilt, believing that there could have been something, anything that they did or did not do that caused their baby’s death. Stillbirth is something that society in general finds difficult to talk about, and friends and family members may not know what to do or to say, or even try to avoid the grieving parents. It can be a time when couples find strength in each other, or grow apart, isolated by their own intense experiences of grief and guilt. Men will have their own particular issues; the focus on stillbirth is often very much on the mother’s grief, but the father too is grieving yet will also often feel that he has to be the strong one.

Therapists at CPCP are trained with a therapeutic specialism in working with this type of pregnancy loss. They are here to provide a caring and compassionate service, helping the parent or parents to come to terms with their loss, psychologically and emotionally. The emotional journey from stillbirth is a particularly difficult one of coming to terms with the experience of the fragility of human life. It can touch on every aspect of the human experience – the biological, psychological, emotional and spiritual. A stillbirth can make a person question all these aspects of their life. CPCP’s therapists can be with a person on this journey, helping them to come to terms with their loss and to rebuild their lives.

Some parents may try to repress their grief, denying its emotional and psychological significance. Whilst some may just not be ready to talk about their grief, if such repression continues, it can become a destructive force in a person’s life, impacting on the quality and emotional capacity of their relationships with their partner, family and friends, whether consciously or on a deeper, subconscious level. Thoughts and feelings connected with the unresolved grief may resurface during a subsequent pregnancy and may go on to negatively affect the parent-infant relationship. Processing emotional and psychological experiences through psychotherapy and counselling after a stillbirth is also a form of early intervention, identifying and addressing these potential dangers before they actually become an issue later in a person's life.

Whilst a parent can never get over the loss of a child, counselling and psychotherapy can help them to come to terms with it, integrating this aspect of themselves into their life history and allowing them to move forward. If you or your partner have suffered a stillbirth and would like to talk to someone about how you are feeling, you can contact CPCP using the contact details that appear on this website. Other sources of information and support can be found at Tommy's and at SANDS.

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