It is unimaginable that your joys of setting up a new nursery have now been replaced with the need to make funeral plans. Unfortunately, in many hospitals, you will be asked about your wishes for the baby following delivery. Although it can be difficult to discuss, it is important that you understand what your medical team may ask of you. Each hospital has certain policies and procedures, which will depend on the following:
- How many weeks the pregnancy was at the time of death
- The fetal weight in grams
- The state in which you give birth
It is important to be aware of your state’s specific guidelines regarding disposition of the deceased. The state of Pennsylvania issues a fetal death certificate for any loss after 16 weeks of gestation and requires a burial or cremation after delivery, either privately or via the hospital where you will give birth. You might wish to inquire with a hospital social worker about what options are available to you.
Whether your decision is for cremation or burial, the process starts by contacting a local funeral home director who will ask you and your partner several questions about your wishes. They will need your permission to pick up the baby from the hospital. In the case of cremation, you will be asked if you would like to have the cremated remains returned to you. If you are giving birth outside of Pennsylvania, please talk with your provider about the requirements within your state. If you are requesting an autopsy, you can discuss this process with your provider or genetic counselor (see "Genetic Testing and Autopsy" resource page).
Some families choose to have a full religious service to honor their loss, while others choose a private form of remembrance for the baby. Other families choose to honor the baby by planting trees or flowers or by creating rituals meaningful to the family. Know that there is no right or wrong method to mourn, and whatever decisions you and your family make are the right ones for you.