Death before Birth: Understanding, informing and supporting the choices made by people who have experienced miscarriage, termination, and stillbirth

'Death before Birth' is a two-year ESRC-funded project, running from 2016-18.

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Through this project, we aim to examine how people in England who have experienced miscarriage, termination for fetal anomaly, and stillbirth reach decisions concerning what happens to their baby after death, how their perceptions of the law impact on their decision-making, and how they communicate their experiences and choices to those there to support them. We will also be examining the existing guidance on what happens to babies after they have died, investigating how it is interpreted in practice by professionals and the extent to which it takes account of the views, experiences and needs of the bereaved. It is an interdisciplinary project, combining aspects of socio-legal studies, cultural studies, and linguistics.

The end of a pregnancy may be felt as a form of bereavement, one that usually involves complex emotions that are difficult to articulate. From a linguistic standpoint, this project will accordingly pay careful attention not just to what the bereaved and those who support them say, but how they express themselves through their words and actions. We are particularly interested in how individuals may use figurative language to help them to express complex and difficult emotions.

Our research will inform and improve government policy, and pave the way to improved care pathways for people who have faced such experiences.


  • The Human Tissue Authority
  • The Miscarriage Association
  • SANDS (Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Charity)
  • Antenatal Results and Choices (ARC)

Project Team


Key outcomes will include:

  • Informing revisions to HTA Guidelines on the Disposal of Pregnancy Remains
  • Reports to our key partners to inform training of support workers
  • 7 or more academic journal articles
  • Special issue of a journal
  • Project Conference to be held at the University of Birmingham in February 2018

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