A post-mortem (also called an autopsy) is a medical examination to help understand the medical reason for why your baby died. A healthcare professional who knows about the post-mortem process will talk with you about your options of having a post-mortem and can answer any questions you have. They will explain the different types of post-mortems and ask you to decide what level of post-mortem you are comfortable consenting to for your baby.

If you consent to a post-mortem, the perinatal pathologist (the doctor who performs the post-mortem) will assess what level of post-mortem will give the most helpful information for understanding what may have caused your baby’s death. The pathologist will only carry out a post-mortem to the level you have consented to. But they may judge that a lower level of post-mortem gives the maximum amount of information, and stop at that level. This means that even if you consented for your baby to receive a full post-mortem, this might not happen.

This approach has changed slightly from the system before October 2022, when the NHS introduced a new policy based on research evidence which shows for many babies, a lower level of post-mortem gives as much information as a full post-mortem.

There is only one type of post-mortem examination which can be carried out without your consent and this is one ordered by a coroner (England, Wales and Northern Ireland) or a procurator fiscal (Scotland). You will be informed if your baby’s post-mortem has been ordered by a coroner or procurator fiscal.

Sands have produced an animation to help families make an informed choice regarding a post-mortem for their baby. You can watch the video by clicking this link 

You might also find our booklet, 'Understanding why your baby died' helpful. To access it, please click on the image below.


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