Registering a Stillbirth

A stillborn child is legally defined as a child born after the 24th week of pregnancy who did not show any signs of life after being born.Every stillbirth in England and Wales must be registered in the district where it took place and normally within 42 days. A stillbirth may not be registered more than three months after it occurred.In Scotland, you must register a stillbirth within 21 days. You have up to one year to register in Northern Ireland, although there is no legal requirement to register a stillbirth.

Who can register a stillbirth?

If the child’s parents were married to each other at the time the stillbirth (or conception) occurred, either the mother or father may register.If the parents were not married to each other at the time the stillbirth (or conception) occurred, information about the father may only be entered in the register in the following circumstances:

The mother can sign if:

  • The child's parents are unmarried
  • The father cannot be traced or is unknown

If both parents want the father's name in the register:

  • Both parents can sign the register together
  • The mother can sign and bring a 'signed declaration' from the father (the register office can explain how to do this)
  • If the mother is unable to attend the register office with the father, the mother will need to make a statutory declaration acknowledging the paternity of the stillborn child

If neither parent can attend

The following people can register the stillbirth:

  • The occupier of the hospital or house where the stillbirth took place
  • Someone who was present at the stillbirth
  • Someone who is responsible for the stillborn child
  • The person who found the stillborn child, if the date and place of the stillbirth are unknown

What do you need to do to register a stillbirth?

The person registering the stillbirth will have to present a medical certificate of stillbirth at the Registrar, which is issued by a doctor or midwife. If no medical certificate is available then please contact the Register Office for advice.

What will be recorded?

Once the registration is complete, a certificate is issued to enable the funeral arrangements to be finalised.If your baby was born after 24 weeks, then by law the body must be buried or cremated. This can be arranged by you, or if you prefer not to be involved, the hospital can make arrangements for you. You are under no obligation to hold a funeral service. If your baby was stillborn before 24 weeks, you can still arrange a funeral.

What documents will you receive from the Registrar?

  • Certificate of registration: this certificate is free of charge and will be given to the person who registers the stillbirth.
  • Stillbirth certificate: this certificate is available to buy at the time of registration or anytime afterwards. A full certificate showing both parents’ names costs £3.50. The father can only buy this certificate if his details are recorded in the register entry.
  • Certificate of burial or cremation: the Registrar will issue a certificate for the burial or cremation of the child, which is passed to the person responsible for the funeral arrangements. A funeral cannot take place until this certificate is given to the burial authority or the crematorium.

The following organisations give support and advice:

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