Stillbirth is now defined as any baby born with no signs of life after 24 weeks of pregnancy. If there are no signs of life before 24 weeks, this is known as miscarriage. When a child is still-born it is necessary to register the still-birth in the district in which it occurred. Although this may be arranged through any register office in England or Wales, it needs to be done within 42 days, and may not be done more than three months after the still-birth occurred.
How to register a stillbirth
A medical certificate of still-birth will be issued by the doctor or midwife who examined the body or who were present at the birth. This certificate is necessary to register the still-birth at the Registration Office. The information, is recorded in the still-birth register and the person registering the still-birth signs the record.
Registration can sometimes, in extenuating circumstances, be carried out at the hospital.
If you prefer, you can go to any other Registration Office in England and Wales to give the details of the stillborn baby, but the birth will not be registered there. The details will be forwarded by post to the registration district where the baby was born and he/she will complete the registration from the information you have supplied. This is called registering a stillbirth by declaration.
Who can register a stillbirth?
If the parents of the child were married to each other at the time of the still-birth either the mother or the father may register.
If the parents were not married to each other at the time of the still-birth, information about the father may be entered in the register only in the following circumstances:
- the mother and father go to the register office and sign the still-birth register together, or
- where the father is unable to go to the register office with the mother, the father may make a statutory declaration acknowledging his paternity which the mother must produce to the registrar (this form may be obtained from any registrar in England or Wales), or where the mother is unable to go to the register office with the father the mother may make a statutory declaration acknowledging the father's paternity which the father must produce to the registrar (this form may be obtained from any registrar in England or Wales).
If information about the father is not recorded, it may be possible for the birth to be re-registered to include his details at a later date, speak to the registrar about this.
Other people who may register stillbirths
Although the majority of still-births are registered by the parents, sometimes neither the mother or the father are able to do this. In these circumstances, the registrar will arrange for the registration to be completed by whichever of the following people is best able to do so:
- the occupier of the house or hospital where the child was still-born
- a person who was present at the still-birth
- a person who is responsible for the still-born child
- the person who found the still-born child (where the date and place of the still-birth are unknown).
Information required for the registration of a stillbirth
- date and place of still-birth
- the forename(s) and surname, if the parents wish to name the still-born child
- sex of the child.
Father (where this information is to be entered in the register):
- forename(s) and surname
- date and place of birth
- occupation at the time of the still-birth or, if not employed at that time, the last occupation.
- forename(s) and surname
- maiden surname if the mother is, or has been, married
- date and place of birth
- occupation at the time of the still-birth or, if not employed at that time, the last occupation
- usual address at the date of the still-birth
- date of marriage, if married to the still-born child's father at the time of the still-birth
- number of previous children by the present husband and by any former husband.
It is most important that the information recorded in the still-birth register is correct. If any mistake is made, for example in the spelling of a name or surname or in the description of the father's or mother's occupation, it will give the parents or the person who registered the still-birth some difficulty in having it put right. The person registering the still-birth should check the information to be recorded in the register very carefully before the entry is signed. The parents must register the still-birth personally as a relative or friend cannot register instead of them.
What certificates will be issued?
- Certificate of registration: A certificate of registration will be issued, free of charge, to the person who registers the still-birth. This certificate provides proof that the still-birth has been registered. Any names given to the still-born child and entered in the register will be recorded on the certificate of registration.
- Still-birth certificate: After a still-birth has been registered, one or more certificates may be bought at the time of registration or at any time afterwards by the mother or the father. (The father's details would need to be recorded in the register entry for him to be able to obtain a certificate). Any application for a certificate from someone who is not the mother or father should be directed to the Registrar's Office, giving full details of the purpose for which the certificate is required.
- Certificate for burial or cremation: The registrar will issue a certificate for the burial or cremation of the still-born child. The certificate is normally passed to the funeral director who is making the arrangements. A funeral cannot take place until this certificate is given to the burial authority or the crematorium. If there is a delay to the registration, it is possible for a certificate for the burial to be issued before registration provided the still-birth does not need to be reported to the coroner. A certificate for cremation cannot be issued before the registration.
For further advice on registering a still-birth please contact Rochdale Register Office.