Perinatal Grief | Information for Professionals

What is perinatal grief?

Perinatal Grief is a type of grief that occurs after the death of a baby (either by miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, termination, or stillbirth) during pregnancy, birth, or the first month after their birth. Similar to other forms of grief, the death of a baby can cause bereaved parents acute emotional distress.

What does perinatal grief feel like to the patient?

Bereaved parents will often fluctuate through the five Stages of Grief: Denial, Anger, Depression, Bargaining, and Acceptance (Kubler-Ross). Grieving is a very individualized experience and the grief process is rarely linear. 

How does perinatal grief differ from other forms of grief?

The major difference with perinatal loss is that the death is of someone who has not been born yet or was not living a long time. Perinatal loss involves not only the physical loss of a baby, but also the emotional loss of an envisioned future.

Screening options

When screening for perinatal grief, we recommend using the following tools:

Non-pharmacologic treatments

There are ways you can care for the birthing individual and their support person if the death of the baby occurs in a clinical setting:

Pharmacologic treatments

Antidepressants are typically prescribed for depressive reactions associated with bereavement. It is not beneficial to the patient to medicate away their feelings, but if their functioning is compromised, medication may be called for. 

The best treatment for perinatal grief is psychotherapy but the combination of psychotherapy and medication may be warranted if  therapy alone does not address the patient’s  maladaptive grief responses.

MedicationStarting DoseHow to IncreaseTherapeutic Range
25 mgIncrease to 50 mg after 4 days.
Increase to 100 mg one week later.
50-200 mg
10 mgIncrease to 20 mg after one week.20-40 mg
10 mgIncrease to 20 mg after one week.20-40 mg
5 mgIncrease to 10 mg after one week.10-20 mg
NOTE: For all of these medications, temporary side effects can include: nausea, constipation, diarrhea, unsteadiness, grogginess, headaches, dizziness, dry mouth, and vivid dreams. Prolonged side effects can include: weight gain, increased appetite, low libido, anorgasmia, and insomnia.


Kübler-Ross, E. (1969). On death and dying. New York, NY: Macmillan Publishing.

Resources to Share with Your Patients