After you lose a baby, you may wonder why it happened, or if it will happen again. The answers to those questions may affect how you grieve. They may also affect your future pregnancies. In some cases, a pathology exam may help answer these questions.
A pathology exam is any type of test that can tell you what may have happened with your baby. You may hear different words to describe exams or tissues or a body after death, including surgical pathology exam, post-mortem exam, or autopsy.
Exams are performed by specially trained doctors (pathologists), who test tissues and cells to identify diseases in patients.
These exams are not required. There are consent forms that you will sign to give the doctors permission to complete an exam.
In some cases, genetic testing may be helpful. Your doctor can explain more about what testing might be right for your baby.
Types of Exams
There are different types of exams you can choose.
Surgical pathology exam:
This is an option for babies delivered between 12 and 19 weeks gestation. During the exam, the pathologist will measure your baby’s body and examine the placenta under a microscope.
This is an option for babies delivered at 20 weeks gestation or more, and who weight more than 12 ounces. During the exam, the pathologist will only examine the parts of your baby that you request, and will examine your placenta under a microscope.
This is an option for babies delivered at 20 weeks gestation or more, and who weigh more than 12 ounces. During the exam, the pathologist will review your medical history, examine and measure your baby’s body, cut to examine your baby’s brain and the organs inside your baby’s chest and belly, weigh your baby’s organs, look at tissues under a microscope, and look at your placenta under a microscope. The pathologist may also take pictures or X-rays or run some genetic tests.
Your baby’s face, hands, arms and legs will not be cut.
Pathology Exam Results
The amount of time to get results depends on the type of exam your baby had. Results from surgical pathology exams may be available in 2-3 days. Short autopsy reports may also be available in 2-3 days, but the full report with all the details can take up to 2 months. Genetic testing can take several weeks, depending on the specific test.
Once the report is available, you can schedule an appointment with your doctor to review the results. You can also get a copy from UAMS Medical Records (501-603-1520).
Some families have questions about costs. The cost of surgical pathology exams depends on the specific tests needed. There is no cost to UAMS families for autopsies.
If you choose to have an exam for your baby, you can still hold and spend time with your baby after delivery. The exams will not keep you from having a funeral service for your baby; someone from the funeral home you select will transport your baby from UAMS after the exam is complete.