The perinatal autopsy
The value of the perinatal autopsy
The perinatal autopsy can provide important information to the family, the clinician, and society [1–3]. When the parents give their consent for a post mortem examination on their baby, they are hoping to know why and how their baby died. It is quite reassuring to the parents to know that whatever has gone wrong, it did not happen because they did something wrong, and that there was nothing they could have done to prevent it. In cases where the pregnancy was terminated due to malformations, the post mortem can confirm, modify, or exclude a prenatal diagnosis, i.e., it serves as an audit tool for both diagnosis and diagnostic techniques. In all cases, whether it was a miscarriage, a stillbirth or a termination of pregnancy due to fetal malformations, the information obtained from the autopsy can help both the parents and the clinicians to plan for future pregnancies, and help the clinicians to counsel the parents about possible recurrence risks.
In cases of neonatal deaths, the perinatal autopsy can provide the neonatologists with information about the accuracy of their diagnoses and any conditions that were not recognized. It can also provide information about the effects of various treatments and drugs on the tissues and organs.
The autopsy is an important teaching tool for a variety of health professionals involved in the care of women and their babies. This includes pathologists, pediatricians, neonatologists, obstetricians, midwives, nurses, and bereavement officers.
The perinatal autopsy provides information that can be used to promote public health. Accurate information on causes of death is essential for national perinatal mortality data and health service planning.