When a pregnancy ends with the death of the baby, it is a terrible experience for all those affected. Time is needed to process this event. Talk about your feelings with people you trust or get in touch with people who can help you professionally. Above all, know that you are not alone in this tragic experience.
In Germany, a miscarriage is said to occur when the embryo or fetus weighs less than 500 grams. It can be associated with heavy bleeding and with painful cramping. However, it may also be that the doctor or midwife finds that the embryo or fetus shows no signs of life during a check-up. If you lose a pregnancy, you may be advised to have a (often called a ‘D&C’) to empty to the contents of the uterus. You usually do not have to undergo this procedure immediately. It is important that you say goodbye to your baby if you feel the need and that you allow yourself to be sad.
Approximately one in three women will experience a miscarriage in her lifetime. This often goes unnoticed, however, because the pregnancy has not yet been confirmed. Most miscarriages occur during the first twelve weeks of pregnancy. In Germany, a late miscarriage is one that occurs between the 12th and 24th weeks of pregnancy, though the cutoff varies between countries.
If a baby is stillborn after the 24th week of pregnancy, it is not called a miscarriage in Germany, but a stillbirth. The same applies here to all babies who weigh more than 500 grams. Most of the time, the doctor or midwife finds out about a fetal death during a checkup. The pregnant person and their relatives can then have a few days to say goodbye to their baby if necessary. Birth will occur afterwards. A lot of pregnant people want a c-section at first. However, they are most often advised to give birth naturally. Experience shows that people can cope better with the loss of the pregnancy if they let go of it step by step. Some parents and their relatives hold the baby in their arms after birth and give them a name.
If you lost your pregnancy to a miscarriage, you can bury the baby if you want to. You don't have to do it though. Many clinics provide burials in a communal grave for babies who die prematurely. The situation is different in the case of a stillbirth. The baby must be registered at the registration office (Standesamt) and the parents have the obligation to go through the official funerary process.
For most people, the loss of a wanted pregnancy is very difficult to cope with. They may feel like they have done something wrong or that there is something wrong with them. Talk to people you trust about your feelings. Involve your partner too. This person has also lost their future child and must deal with their own grief and your shared grief. Finding a ritual to help you say goodbye to your baby, either as a couple or separately, can do you good. You can write a letter to the baby who died, or you can buy a keepsake that reminds you of them.
For many people who have lost a pregnancy, it is important to talk to an expert about the loss. You can ask your midwife for support or you can contact a counselling centre in your area. Some people find it good to talk to others who have been affected by similar experiences in a self-help group, either on their own or as a couple. If you are having a lot of difficulty moving forward, you should contact a psychotherapist.