Miscarriage

Although statistics may come as little comfort, it may still help to remember that one in five women go through miscarriage at some point in their lives 1.

About 10 – 20% of pregnancies end in early miscarriage, i.e. within the first 12 weeks. Late miscarriages happen in about 1 – 2% of pregnancies 2.

Repeat miscarriage – when a woman experiences three or more miscarriages in a row – affects about 1% of women trying to conceive 3.

Photo by Kylli Kittus on Unsplash

Definition of miscarriage in Belgium

Under Belgian legislation, the loss of a baby before 22 weeks gestation or with a birth weight of less than 500g is considered a miscarriage 4.

Babies born after 22 weeks

The loss of a baby after 22 weeks gestation (140 days of pregnancy) is considered a stillbirth.

Since 31 March 2019, a baby who is stillborn after 140 days of pregnancy can be officially registered with the Belgian authorities, and therefore officially named. Only a first name can be given. In the past this was only possible for babies stillborn after 180 days of pregnancy.

There is a one-year transition period during which time parents whose baby was stillborn between 140 and 180 days, and who wish to have their baby registered, to do so.

This request needs to be made before 31 March 2020.


What to expect if you have a miscarriage

The websites of two UK charities – the Miscarriage Association and Tommy’s – provide a great deal of clear information in English about:

  • signs and symptoms of a miscarriage
  • what ultrasounds scans can show
  • surgical, medical and natural management of miscarriage
  • possible causes of miscarriage

They also give information about ectopic and molar pregnancies.

BabyCentre is also a useful resource for information about pregnancy loss.


Who can look after me in Belgium?

This will depend on what stage you are in your pregnancy, whether or not you are already seeing a care provider for prenatal care, and what symptoms you are experiencing.

Depending on your situation, you may decide to visit your family doctor, midwife, gynaecologist, family planning centre, or hospital emergency department.

Note that the miscarriage will remain on your medical/gynaecological history.

Repeat miscarriages

Many women will experience at least one miscarriage in their lives, and most will go on to carry a baby to term. However, about 1% of women experience repeat miscarriages – i.e. three or more miscarriages in a row 5. If you have experienced several miscarriages, you might like to seek specialist medical advice to explore why this might be happening.

Most fertility centres offer investigation into repeat miscarriages, including genetic testing, and other tests to try to establish a cause and find solutions.

For example, the Centrum voor Reproductieve Geneeskunde (CRG or Centre for Reproductive Medicine) at the Universitair Ziekenhuis Brussel (UZ Brussel) has a support and treatment programme for women who experience repeated miscarriages.

Their website gives an overview of possible causes, medical examinations you might be offered, and options for support and treatment.


Support and coping with loss

We all cope differently with loss, and there is no right or wrong way to feel about a miscarriage.

The website of the UK’s Miscarriage Association has a useful section that looks at how loss might affect you and your partner, and those around you, and also suggests some ways to help you cope. As well as containing lots of useful information, the Miscarriage Association’s website also has a forum.

In Belgium:

  • Waterloo-based mum Joanne Fraser has set up a support group, Pregnancy and Infant Loss Support Belgium, for the loss of a pregnancy, stillbirth, infant death, conceiving or expecting after a loss.

    “It is a terrible thing to have to go through the loss of a baby in a foreign country away from family and friends. Even worse is not having anyone to speak to about it.”

    Joanne has been involved in grief support for a while now and – having not really found a group here in Belgium – decided to start one. The group currently has a closed Facebook group, which gives an opportunity to meet and support each other.

    Email joannefraser_home@hotmail.com for further information or to be added to the Facebook group.

Are there any administrative formalities if I have a miscarriage?

Under Belgian law, if you have a miscarriage or your baby is stillborn after a pregnancy that lasted less than 180 days, the birth does not need to be registered.

However, since 31 March 2019, a baby who is stillborn between 140 and 180 days of pregnancy can – if the mother / parents wish – be officially registered with the Belgian authorities, and therefore officially named. In the past this was only possible for babies stillborn after 180 days of pregnancy. Note that only a first name can be given, not a family name.

For late miscarriages, some parents ask for a ‘declaration of a late miscarriage’ (‘déclaration de fausse couche tardive’), which is needed if you wish to have a funeral for your baby. See below for more information on funeral arrangements.


Can our baby be buried / cremated?

If your baby was miscarried or stillborn between 106 and 180 days of pregnancy, you can request that he/she can be either buried in a special section of your commune’s cemetery or be cremated and the ashes scattered in a special section of your commune’s cemetery – all communes should have a small area of their cemetery reserved for the burial of babies who were stillborn before 180 days of pregnancy, and for the scattering of ashes.

In Flanders, the above applies irrespective of when the baby died before 180 days of pregnancy.

Your doctor or midwife can make the request to the commune. A funeral home will take care of the transport of your baby.

Funeral costs

While Belgian mutuelles will contribute to funeral costs for a baby who was born but died shortly after birth, this is not the case for babies who are miscarried or stillborn – in both of these cases, the baby has never officially been registered as a ‘dependent’ of either parent.

Note that even a simple funeral/cremation can cost close to €1000.

TheCrematorium de Bruxelles does not charge for cremation of a baby who was miscarried or stillborn between 106 and 180 days of pregnancy.

Some employers may offer to help with funeral costs. Your HR department should be able to advise you if this is the case.


Worth knowing

  • Bills for medical care related to your miscarriage, e.g. consultations, blood tests and ultrasounds, can continue to come for quite a while after the miscarriage, which may feel like insensitive reminders as you are trying to come to terms with your loss.

  • After a miscarriage, you are still entitled to partial reimbursement of perinatal physiotherapy sessions. Depending on when you lost your baby, you may feel the need for e.g. pelvic floor strengthening.

  • You are only entitled to maternity leave and the related payments if your baby is stillborn after 180 days of pregnancy or is born but dies soon after birth (however long the pregnancy lasted).

    If your baby is stillborn before 180 days of pregnancy, your doctor may be able to provide you with a medical certificate saying you are unable to work for a certain period (‘incapacité de travail’ / ‘arbeidsongeschiktheid’).

Last updated on

  1. Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (2008) Early miscarriage: information for you
  2. Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (2008) Early miscarriage: information for you
  3. Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (2008) Recurrent and late miscarriage: tests and treatment of couples
  4. 17 JUIN 1999 – Arrêté royal prescrivant l’établissement d’une statistique annuelle des causes de décès / 17 JUNI 1999 – Koninklijk besluit waarbij het opmaken van een jaarlijkse statistiek van de overlijdensoorzaken wordt voorgeschreven
    http://www.ejustice.just.fgov.be/cgi_loi/change_lg.pl?language=fr&la=F&cn=1999061735&table_name=loi (in French)
  5. Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (2008) Recurrent and late miscarriage: tests and treatment of couples