What to Expect During Labor Induction for Stillbirth

Labor induction for stillbirthFrom one moment to the next, your whole life changes. The death of a baby after 20 weeks gestation is considered a stillbirth and most stillbirths occur before labor begins. There are a few reasons why stillbirth may occur, but like miscarriages, many times the cause can not be determined.

No one ever wants to think about this happening to them, but the statistics show that it can occur in about 1 out of 160 pregnancies, according to March of Dimes. Stillbirths are diagnosed with an ultrasound that shows the heart is no longer beating and sometimes a cause can be determined at that time (likely if there was an issue with the placenta).

Unfortunately, even when your child passes, you have to give birth which is obviously complicated. A doctor will discuss delivery options with you and more often than not, a c-section is not recommended — so labor induction is usually the agreed upon option.

One of the biggest things to know about labor induction for stillbirth is you have many choices.

You don’t always have to induce right away.

Unless there is a medical reason, you don’t always need to choose to be induced right away. Some families choose to wait a few hours or days, while others choose to wait until labor naturally starts on his own. Typically labor will begin about 2 weeks after the baby has died and is a valid option to discuss with your doctor.

Your cervix will be checked to see if there’s any dilation. If not, medication will be applied to ready the cervix. To induce labor, the mom is given an IV with the synthetic hormone Pitocen which will induce contractions and begin labor. The labor will be similar to that of a live birth in pain and length, but with the complications of grief knowing your child will not take a breath.

Community suggestions for someone facing induction of labor due to stillbirth:

1. You have choices

“Know you have a choice to be induced right away or wait to make some plans. Take LOTS of pictures (even your own or have family/nurse take lots since you only get to keep a certain amount from NILMDTS) and spend LOTS of time with your baby (don’t be in a rush to leave – even though it feels like you just want to get out of that hospital). Weigh your baby and look at every part of them without clothes on; bathe and dress them; cut their hair; look at the color of their eyes; take hand/foot prints; get a hand/foot mold. Know you can wait a month or two to have a service if you don’t want to have one right away; Once home – seek out others that have been through this and ‘get it.'” — Becky

2. Trust

“I personally, was beyond angry and upset that they were making me give birth to my dead baby. (I wanted a c-section, but couldn’t have one for medical reasons.)… Even though you may feel these negative emotions at the time, one day you will be proud of the fact that you birthed your child and got to experience such a bittersweet moment.” — Amy

3. Be present

“Less Valium and sedatives…I hardly remember the birth” — Sandra

4. Your baby’s look

“Skin changes can happen if baby has died in the days before delivery. I was quite unprepared for this, even though it is estimated our son had died in the 24 hours before delivery. He had little blistered areas on his wrists and ankles and I got the midwives to bandage them because I felt I was hurting him. I think it is important to know if you delay delivery, these changes will occur, and be prepared for them. If the hospital or funeral home will allow it, take baby home for a short time. This was never offered to us but I know someone that did this & was able to recommend it to someone else and they were so glad to have those precious moments at home.” — Jacqui

5. Be as comfortable as you can and time matters

“I would suggest an epidural. AND take your time saying good bye…get as many pictures as you can…hold and kiss your angel. and remember the members of this site have all been there and can support you if you need it.” – Keri

6. Contact a doula

“Contact a bereavement doula if available in your area. I wish I had one. Takes lots of pictures, if you can’t, have someone take them for you. That you have them if or when you are ready.” — Jennifer

7. Surround with love

” Have your loved ones with you. It will help you so much. You will be going through a lot of pain physically and emotionally and having them there will help. But i would suggest not have all of them there at one time for a long time because you will be glad they are there but there will be times when you need ro cry and mourn on your own.” — Candis

8. Don’t rush

“Don’t feel rushed spending time with your little one. I was very worried that it may be weird or creepy, but it wasn’t. They were my boys and I hugged them, held them, and simply loved on them for the short time I had them in my arms. Take pictures and make memories!! You may be so overwhelmed with emotions, but you will cherish those memories/pictures later.” — Karina

9. Take some time

“Wait for the induction until you have at least started to make your peace. You Do NOT have to be immediately induced. Take some time. (I went home for about five hours, until I decided I was ready, but it could be longer or shorter from person to person.) Try to start collecting advocates that can help you make decisions, like the pictures, holding your baby, funeral arrangements (can you take the baby home? In MD you can!). So many decisions that are made even more difficult in the physically and emotionally drained state immediately post-partum. Create a birth plan. Talk about things. Create AS MANY memories AS YOU CAN. They will be the only ones you have.” — Heather

Share your tips/advice on what to expect, what to prepare for when facing and induction of labor due to stillbirth

Photo credit: adapted from Pixabay

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Devan McGuinness

is the founder and executive director of the award-winning resource Unspoken Grief .

  1. Thanks for sharing these tips. I am very glad about Amy’s comment that parents can feel positively about having given birth to their baby in a natural way. Depending on circumstances it might be very difficult to realize that at the time, but I believe that it is very important to try to have a positive birth experience. When our first son died, everything was taken from us, including all the emotions and experiences that other parents have, in particular the birth experience. When we got the news that our second son had died in the womb, we were differently prepared mentally and did not want to let everything been taken from us again. We had a good team of people around us, it felt safe at the hospital and we had an amazing birth experience. Many people have difficulty understanding that because our baby had died. That was absolutely devastating, but those memories of the birth cannot been taken from us. We still got to see and hold him and have this experience of having delivered him as a family which is an important memory for us. I would never have been able to see it that way in our first delivery because at that time everything was just so overwhelming and I had never considered that my child would die. With our second son it was different and I hope that other parents might be able to get some similar memories with the guidance of hospital staff in light of the tragedy they are facing. If I could go back, I would try to take our sons home (which apparently is possible, but nobody really tells you) and I am glad that some of our friends got to meet our sons in the hospital. I have written about our experience at http://www.marlon-and-tobias.com/blog/misperceptions-of-stillbirth/.

  2. I wish I would of spent more time with my son, Dayton. He was so perfect. I felt as if I was hurting his little lifeless body when I held him and it killed me to feel that way. I pushed for hours and hours until the doctors had to physically pull him from me ( he wasn’t ready to leave mom either ). There isn’t a day that goes by I do not think of him. Pictures aren’t enough after awhile, but take as many as you want.

  3. I just found out my twin boys are stillborn I haven’t had them yet & I’m 40 weeks tomorrow .. I don’t know how to feel

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Unspoken Grief is a non-profit website dedicated to creating awareness and resources for anyone touched directly or indirectly by miscarriage, stillbirth or neonatal death.

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