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Paperwork and other arrangments

Documentation

Each jurisdiction has different regulations for obtaining a birth certificate and death certificate for your baby. The type of documentation you can obtain often is related to how far along in your pregnancy you are.

  • If your baby expires soon after birth, your jurisdiction may not automatically issue a birth certificate. You may need to request a birth certificate if you would like one.  Keep in mind that you may need a birth certificate and/or a tax ID number if you want to claim your baby for tax or life insurance purposes.
  • If your baby dies before he or she is born, your jurisdiction may allow you to request a certificate of stillbirth.
  • If your hospital does not have the paperwork to obtain the birth and/or death certificates for your baby, ask them to provide a “birth verification letter” stating all of your baby’s information (weight, measurements, date of birth, etc.) so you can apply for the certificates yourself.
  • You may also be able to obtain a death certificate through a funeral home or mortuary, if you use one.
  • Your hospital may provide a “certificate of life” for you to take home.

Your baby’s body

Before you deliver, the hospital will probably ask you to decide whether you want an autopsy conducted on your baby and what you would like to do with your baby’s body. If you would prefer to focus on the task of delivery and saying good-bye to your baby and you do not know for sure what you would like to do in either case, ask the hospital whether you can take some time to decide. Find out how long you can wait before you make the decision and have them write down the phone number of who to contact after you go home.

Autopsy and pathology analysis.
An autopsy may provide additional information, such as insight into why your PROM occurred, and the gender of your baby if it is otherwise too early to know for certain. In general, an autopsy will not delay funeral or burial/cremation arrangements. Keep in mind that autopsies do not always reveal the cause of PROM.

    • If you are unsure about what an autopsy entails or how invasive it will be, ask someone from your health care team to give you a detailed description.
    • If you decide to have an autopsy performed, find out the level of analysis that will be performed on the placenta (microscopic or gross). If you are unsatisfied with the level of analysis, discuss this with your health care practitioner. Also, find out how long tissue samples or slides will be kept, in case you want to have an outside lab review the slides at a later date.
    • If you decide not to have an autopsy performed, ask whether your health care team will still be able to get useful information from the placenta or other samples.

Deciding what you would like to do with your baby’s body
Ask your hospital what the legal requirements are for disposition of your baby’s body. Some jurisdictions require burial or cremation after a baby is past a certain gestational age. If your baby was under the age limit where burial or cremation is required, most jurisdictions will still allow you to arrange a funeral, burial, and/or cremation if that is your wish.

  • If you would like your baby to be buried or cremated, ask if the hospital can contact your mortuary or funeral home, or if the hospital has a mortuary or funeral home to recommend. You may choose to have your baby buried in your family plot. Many cemeteries will allow your baby to be buried or interred with a family member for a nominal fee. If you are concerned about whether you can afford burial or cremation services, ask the hospital if they know of any funeral homes that will perform perinatal funerals free or at a reduced charge, or if the hospital performs this service.
  • If you do not wish to have your baby buried or cremated, ask whether the hospital can make arrangements to dispose of your baby’s body for you. You may want to ask specifically what the hospital’s arrangements are, and whether the hospital will keep a record of the arrangements in case you would like to access that information at a later date.

 

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Article by Kay Squires, with special thanks to Valerie, Holly, and Marion, and the members of the PROM mailing list
January 2005, updated July 2011