Autopsy, to parents facing the decision

Information to parents facing the decision of autopsy

It is possible to do an autopsy of fetuses, premature babies, newborns and children who die shortly after birth. It is up to you as parents whether the autopsy should be carried out. The autopsy will be handled by a specialized pathologist within a few days after the loss of your baby/child.

The aim of the autopsy is: 

  • to find the cause of death, if possible
  • to create a foundation for advising you in potential future pregnancies
  • to search for findings that can supplement information about the course of pregnancy
  • to acknowledge and support clinical diagnosis, including potential findings through ultrasound, tests of the placenta and amniotic fluid
  • exploration for malformations.

Permission for the autopsy

An autopsy is only carried out if you give your permission.

How is the autopsy carried out?

The autopsy will be carried out by a specialized pathologist, who will make an external examination, take x-rays and make an internal examination of the body. It is necessary to open up the front of the body to carry out an internal examination. After the examination, the organs are returned, and the skin will be joined together and covered with a plaster. Furthermore, the placenta will be examined.

Depending on the findings, the tests can be supplemented with photos and microscopic tests. Tissue for chromosome tests will be taken on the labor ward if these are necessary.

Permission for an autopsy of the brain  

The examination will only be carried out if you give your permission. An examination of the brain is often an important part of the autopsy, especially in fetuses, premature and newborns dying shortly after birth. 

How is the brain autopsy carried out?

Examination of the brain starts on the back of the head. The examination is extensive and the brain cannot be returned to the body. The skin is joined together and is covered by a plaster and a little hat to cover the head.

After the autopsy

You will be allowed to see your baby/child again after the autopsy. You may dress her/him and lay your child to rest in the coffin. It will however be visible that she/he has been through an autopsy.

After the autopsy, you can confer with the chapel on when you would like to pick up your child for a burial or cremation service. 

Results of the autopsy

The autopsy rapport, with the results of the different tests and examinations, will often be available within 8 to 12 weeks. You will be offered an appointment with a doctor, where all the results will be explained to you. Hopefully the autopsy can give you answers to some of the questions that arise when you lose a child.

Kind regards 
Obstetric Clinic, Rigshospitalet

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