Registering a stillborn child

Before January 1995, stillborn babies were not considered as births in Ireland. This caused a lot of trauma for parents who felt that they were encouraged by authorities to forget about their stillborn children and move on with their lives without mourning them or even acknowledging their existence.

Can a stillborn child be registered on the births register?

Since 1995, parents have the opportunity to register their stillborn children. This is not necessary within three months, as is the case with live births. Parents can take stock of their loss and choose to register their stillborn baby when the time is right for them.

Can I register my stillborn child if it happened many years ago?

In the past, there were tragic instances of stillborn babies’ bodies being disposed of in various ways which parents found unacceptable and insensitive. In more recent times, all the maternity hospitals allocated a special plot of land on which stillborn children may be buried, with suitable rites. Though this can never make up for the loss, many parents are grateful that their children can be properly acknowledged and mourned.

Similarly, parents appreciate the chance to register their stillborn children, as they would for children that live. The births register is the official State record of all births that take place in Ireland, and it is only right that stillborn births be recognised too.

For parents who suffered the tragedy of a stillbirth before 1995, there is now the opportunity to back-register those lost children. Even if a stillbirth occurred many years ago, it may still be registered.

What does the law recognise as a stillborn child?

The law isn’t designed to cover every miscarriage. Specifically, it is intended for parents whose children nearly reached full term. In the UK, a miscarriage becomes a stillbirth once the pregnancy lasts 28 weeks. In Ireland, the definition is slightly broader. A stillborn child, according to the 1994 Act, is a child born showing no signs off life who is also either:

  • A child weighing 500 grams (1lb 1.60zs) or more at the time of the birth.
  • A child that has reached the gestational age of at least 24 weeks or more.

How and where can I register my stillborn child?

Either parent of a stillborn child can sign the stillbirths’ register in the appropriate Registrar’s Office. You must bring specific evidence with you to prove to the Registrar that a stillbirth has occurred. This evidence could comprise an authoritative written statement in writing from the maternity hospital, or from your midwife or GP, stating the date and place of birth, the weight and the gestational age of the stillborn child.

To actually register, the parents will have to enter the forename and surname of the child on the register. They will also have to include their forenames, surnames, and any former surnames, such as maiden names. Finally, both parents will enter their address and occupation.

At least one parent must attend, in person, at the office of the Registrar of the district in which the stillbirth occurred. In some cases, parents who don’t live in the district where the stillbirth happened may not know the name or location of the appropriate Registrar. Your local Health Board Office or Clinic will advise you and point you in the right direction.

The Registrar can provide a certificate of stillbirth at the time of registration only to the parent signing the stillbirths register. Afterwards, the mother or father of the stillborn child can get a certified copy of the entry in the register at the Office of the Registrar-General, Joyce House, 8-11 Lombard Street East, Dublin 2.

At the time of registration, a stillbirth certificate costs €5.08. Afterwards, they are only available from General Register Office at the price of €6.98.

Who else should I talk to about stillbirth?

Having a stillborn child is a very traumatising experience, and it may be useful to receive some form of bereavement counselling. For more information contact:

The Irish Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society

Carmichael House

4 North Brunswick Street

Dublin, 7.

 

General Register Office

Joyce House

8-11 Lombard Street East

Dublin, 2

Tel: (01) 6354435/33

 

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