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Funeral Options for an Unborn Child

Losing an unborn child is difficult and depending on the number of weeks, funeral services need to be planned. Here are a family’s funeral options for fetal and infant deaths.
Funeral Options for an Unborn Child
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Arrangements after a miscarriage or stillbirth

Nothing is harder than losing a child, including an unborn child. Fetal deaths and infant deaths are difficult for any parent to endure. We have such wonderful hopes and dreams for our babies as soon as we realize their life has been created. You can form a powerful bond with this little person even though you’ve never seen them.

Unfortunately, many parents don’t get the chance to live out their hopes and dreams. Worldwide, there are over 2.7 million perinatal deaths alone. The grieving process after losing a fetus or infant at or before birth can affect a parent on many levels. True emotional shock to the entire system can occur after losing an unborn child or losing an infant at birth.

Perinatal mortality comprises the combination of fetal deaths and neonatal deaths. In the United States in 2005, the fetal mortality rate for gestations of at least 20 weeks (6.2 fetal deaths per 1000 live births and fetal deaths) was similar to the infant mortality rate (6.9 infant deaths per 1000 live births). Depending on the definition used, fetal mortality contributes to approximately 40% to 60% of perinatal mortality. Understanding the etiologies of these events and predicting risk begins with accurately defining cases; the collection and analysis of reliable statistical data are an essential part of in-depth investigations on local, state, and national levels.

A fetus is defined from 8 weeks after conception until term while in the uterus. An infant is live born and younger than 365 days of age. Challenges in consistent definitions of fetal and infant death mostly stem from perception of viability, which should not change the definition of the event. In other words, an extremely preterm infant born at 16 weeks’ gestation may be defined as a live birth but is not currently viable outside of the womb. On the basis of international standards set by the World Health Organization, the National Center for Health Statistics of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines live birth, fetal death, infant death, and perinatal death as follows.

American Academy of Pediatrics

According to Texas Children’s Hospital, the type of arrangements available will differ based on weight and gestational age.

  • If your baby is under 350 grams or less than 20 weeks gestation, you have two options. You may choose to bury or cremate his or her remains through a funeral home. Or, you may choose for the hospital to handle the disposition of the remains at no charge.
  • If your baby is over 350 grams and/or greater than 20 week gestation, you will need to bury or cremate his or her remains through a funeral home as required by Texas State Law.
  • Social workers and chaplains are available to assist you with arrangements.

For many parents, an important part of the grieving process is funeral rites and having a memorial to honor the short but impactful life of their child. While there are options for all families, what parents should know is those options depend on the age of the baby.

Funeral Service Options After Losing a Micro Preemie

A micro-preemie is a baby or fetus that’s born before 26 weeks into a pregnancy and weighs less than 1 pound 12 ounces. The medical rule of thumb is that babies aren’t viable before 24 weeks of gestation. This is because statistically less than 50% of babies born before 24 weeks survive, meaning thousands of families experience this loss every year.  

Micro preemies can be buried just as another infant would be laid to rest. There are also a few cremation options for families that prefer this type of funeral service. At this young age, some hospitals offer onsite cremation. 

*Important Note: The law requires that babies born after 24 weeks must be cremated or buried. 

Fetal water cremation is offered for babies that are 19 weeks and younger or under 350 grams. While some babies may be too small for cremated remains to be left behind, water cremation is more likely to produce cremains compared to flame cremation

Funeral Service Options After Losing a Premature Baby

Babies that are born between 27-36 weeks of pregnancy are considered to be premature. A death that occurs after 28 weeks is considered a perinatal death. While the rate of survival is good overall, premature babies can be born with various health problems due to their early birth. Not having the full 37 weeks to develop in utero can lead to respiratory problems, eating difficulty, hemorrhaging and increased risk of infection among a number of other health concerns. 

Burial, flame cremation and water cremation are all possible after the death of a premature baby. If you choose flame cremation you should be able to receive cremains, however, water cremation tends to produce up to 30% more cremains in general. 

Funeral Service Options After Losing an Infant at Birth

Sadly, many women make it full-term in their pregnancy, but their baby has already passed or passes away from complications during the birth. According to the CDC, around 24,000 (1 in 160) births in the U.S. every year are stillborn. This means the baby is lost before or during birth. When a stillbirth happens after 36 weeks it’s considered a term stillbirth. The rate of term stillbirth ranges from 2.1 out of 10,000 births at 37 weeks to 10.8 out of 10,000 births at 42 weeks

As with premature babies, burial and both forms of cremation are available for infants. 

At Green Cremation Texas, we want to make sure that families have all funeral options available so that they can honor and remember their child in their own way. We understand that memorializing a child is part of the grieving process that helps to give the infant an identity. If you need support planning funeral services for an unborn child or infant please give us a call any time of the day, any day of the week. We’re here for your family.

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Marlaena Gonzales

Funeral Director
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