The Post Mortem

There is nothing that prepares you for a silent birth and there is nothing that prepares you for going home without your baby. I often refer to the moment that Sophie was born as a deafening silence, and I know that this is a contradiction in terms. So I thought I would write a series of blog posts, not to upset people, but to explain what happens during a silent birth, why the silence is deafening, and what happens after the birth. This is just my experience, and other people’s experience may be different… I would like to hear other experiences so please write a comment or send me an email if you wish.

In the series are:

The Post Mortem

If you decide to have a post mortem, then your baby will be examined by a paediatric Pathologist. There are three different types of post mortem: a complete post mortem, a limited post mortem or an external post mortem, and it is up to you and your husband to decide which one you want.

Complete post mortem

This is the most thorough type and will give you the most information. The pathologist examines the outside of the body very carefully for any signs of abnormality, and then measures, weighs and examines all the internal organs in detail to try to find out why the baby died. The placenta is also examined. Small samples of tissue from the organs are examined under a microscope, before returning all the organs to the body. Genetic tests can also be carried out with your consent. The pathologist may examine the tissue samples and samples of body fluids, such as blood or urine, for infection and other possible problems. He or she usually takes x-rays and medical photographs.

These photographs are specifically for medical diagnosis and are different from any photos of your baby that you or the ward staff might take. They will be kept as part of the medical record. After the examination, the baby’s body is carefully repaired in the same way as after an operation.

Limited Post Mortem

This might give you some useful information, especially if it is known that your baby had a specific abnormality. You decide which internal organs or areas of the body will and won’t be examined. If an

ultrasound scan has shown abnormalities in a specific organ, you might want only that part of the body to be examined.

External post mortem

The pathologist examines the outside of the baby’s body very carefully for any signs of abnormality, but does not examine any internal organs or take any tissue from them. The placenta is also examined. X-rays and photographs are taken and will be kept as part of the medical record.

If you choose an external or a limited post mortem, and the pathologist thinks that a more detailed examination would provide important information about why your baby died, you may be contacted

to ask whether you would consider this. Both a complete and a limited post mortem are always done carefully and respectfully. The baby’s face, arms, legs, hands and feet are not usually affected. The marks of a post mortem are not usually visible when a baby is carefully wrapped in a blanket or fully clothed.

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