Every family has different wishes about how their baby should be cared for after a loss. The healthcare team will try to honour your cultural beliefs, values, and practices.
Your healthcare team will ask if you want to see your baby or the tissue. If under 20 weeks, you can have the hospital care for the remains or you may take them home with you. Talk to your healthcare team about what you want to do.
For more information, see
Examination of your baby
You may have lots of questions about why your baby died. For pregnancy loss under 12 to 14 weeks an examination may be available. 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 healthcare 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 doctor who specializes in finding the cause of death (pathologist) will look at the baby and the placenta (if present). An examination may find the cause of death. A pathologist may 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, you may want to choose an examination. For babies over 12 to 14 weeks, you can ask for a limited or complete examination.
Limited Examination - You decide what will be examined. For example, you 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 and closely look at the organs, tissues, and brain.
Examination Reports - The first report is usually ready within a few weeks. A complete report can take up to a few months. Let your healthcare provider know which doctor you’d like the report sent to, so they can review it with you.
If you wish to pick up your baby’s remains, as ask about what the process is in your area. In Alberta you can do this only if your baby was under 20 weeks.