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After Your Miscarriage

Caring For Your Baby's Remains

Every family has different wishes about how their baby should be cared for after a loss. The health care team will strive to honour your cultural beliefs, values, and practices.

Your healthcare team will ask you if you want to see your baby/tissue. If under 20 weeks, you can have the hospital care for the remains or you may take the remains home with you. Talk to your healthcare team what you want to do.

For more information, see Saying Goodbye.

In the Calgary Area

Your healthcare provider will talk to you about the options for caring for your baby’s remains. You may choose to have the hospital care for the remains. The remains are kept at the lab for 8 weeks and then interred by a funeral service provider. Calgary hospitals offer a Silent Hopes Memorial Service for a ​fetus of less than 20 weeks gestation. Contact the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Program to arrange this. There is no cost for the Cremation service or the Memorial services.

In the Edmonton Area

In the Edmonton area, there are many funeral service providers that offer burials and memorial services. You’ll need to contact them for more information. If you have any questions or concerns, talk to your healthcare provider.

Examination of Your Baby

You may have lots of questions about why your baby died. For pregnancy losses under 12 -14 weeks, an examination may be available, and if your baby was older than 14 weeks you can choose to have a detailed examination (an autopsy is only available after 20 weeks). Everyone is different. Some families want an examination and others don’t.

Take time for you and your partner to think about what’s right for you. If you need to talk to a social worker or spiritual advisor, ask your health care provider.

If you choose an examination, you’ll be asked to sign a consent form. An examination may not give you the answers you want, but knowing more can help with your grieving. An examination might also find out about problems, which could change how you’re cared for during your next pregnancy. Talk with your doctor if you have questions.

What happens during an examination?

A pathologist will look at the baby and the placenta (if present). An examination may find the cause of death. A pathologist may also find information about the organs that could help find out about any genetic concerns. If you want to learn more about health concerns or other factors that may affect another pregnancy, it’s a good idea to choose an examination. For babies over 12 to 14 weeks, you can ask for a limited or complete examination.

Limited Examination - This is an option for parents who don’t want a complete examination. Parents decide what will be examined. For example, they can ask for only the outside of the body to be examined, including photos and x-rays. You can also limit the exam to certain organs like the heart and lungs, or small samples of skin.

Complete Examination - A complete examination is when the body is examined on the inside and the outside. To examine the inside of the body, cuts are made to remove the organs, tissues, and the brain.

Examination Reports - The first report is usually ready within a few weeks, but a complete report can take up to a few months. Let your health care provider know which doctor you’d like the report sent to, so it can be reviewed with you. If you wish to pick up your baby’s remains (in Alberta this can be done only if under 20 weeks), inquire as to the process in your area.

If you live in the Calgary area and plan to pick up your baby’s remains after the exam, call the Social Work Office at Alberta Children’s Hospital. A social worker will check that the baby’s remains are ready to be picked up and can offer information and support.

Current as of: August 18, 2017

Author: Women’s Health, Alberta Health Services