Stillbirth (After Delivery): Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Stillbirth is the loss of a baby after 20 weeks of pregnancy. It can happen during the pregnancy or during labour.

The loss of a baby is devastating and very hard to accept. You may wonder why it happened or blame yourself. But a stillbirth can happen even in a pregnancy that has been going well.

In the weeks to come, try to take care of yourself physically and emotionally. Take care of yourself in whatever way feels best.

Trying to get pregnant again

Talk to your doctor about when he or she thinks you can try to get pregnant again. Some doctors may suggest that women wait 2 to 3 months. Others may think it's best to wait longer.

It depends on how quickly your body heals and on what was done to help deliver the baby. For example, if you had a C-section to deliver the baby, the uterus needs more time to heal. You also may want to make sure that you and your family are emotionally ready to try again to get pregnant.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

Taking care of your body

For your physical health and comfort:

  • Use pads instead of tampons for the bloody flow that may last as long as 2 weeks.
  • Ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter pain medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve), to ease cramps. Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
  • Ease soreness of hemorrhoids and the area between your vagina and rectum with ice compresses or witch hazel pads.
  • Ease constipation by drinking lots of fluid and eating high-fibre foods. Ask your doctor about over-the-counter stool softeners.
  • Cleanse yourself with a gentle squeeze of warm water from a bottle instead of wiping with toilet paper.
  • Take a sitz bath in warm water several times a day.
  • Talk to your doctor about how to ease discomfort from your milk coming in.
  • Ask your doctor about when it is okay to have sex. Many doctors recommend waiting about 4 to 6 weeks. This gives your body time to heal.
  • If your milk has started to come in, talk to your doctor about how to ease discomfort.

Dealing with your grief

  • Rest whenever you can. Being tired makes it harder to handle your emotions.
  • Tell your family and friends what they can do. You may want to spend time alone, or you may seek the comfort of family and friends.
  • Try to eat healthy foods, get some sleep, and get exercise (or just get out of the house) to help you feel strong as you heal.
  • Talk to your doctor about how you are coping. He or she will want to watch you for signs of depression. You may want to have counselling for support and to help you express your feelings.
  • Think about making a memory book of your pregnancy and baby. Many parents name their baby and want to take pictures and keep a lock of hair. The hospital may take photos or footprints for you. Some parents have a ceremony, such as a christening or other blessing or a funeral service.
  • If you can, try to talk to others who have gone through this loss. You can make connections online or in person. Here are some organizations that can help:
    • The Compassionate Friends of Canada. This is a resource for people who have lost a child. The group can help put you in touch with one of its support groups in your area. The website is http://tcfcanada.net.
    • Pregnancy and Infant Loss Network. This group can offer advice and connections to others who have lost a child. The website is http://pailnetwork.ca.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have sudden, severe pain in your belly.
  • You passed out (lost consciousness).

Call your doctor now or nurse call line or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have severe vaginal bleeding. This means that you are soaking through a pad each hour for 2 or more hours.
  • You have a fever.
  • You have new or more belly pain.
  • You are dizzy or light-headed, or you feel like you may faint.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You feel sad, anxious, or hopeless for more than a few days.
  • You have new or worse vaginal discharge.
  • Your vaginal bleeding isn't decreasing.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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