Perinatal mourning: Charline tells how she gave birth to her baby who died in utero

Charline est la maman de Raphaël

Charline is Raphaël's mother
Charline is the mother of Raphaël, stillborn. (©Photo sent to

“When I saw the ultrasound appear on the screen, I understood. My baby was in a ball, he was floating, ”says on this day in October 2022, not without emotion, Charline, mother of two children, including one first boy born dead in 2021. A painunspeakable, on which the medical profession now puts words: the perinatal bereavement.

He also has his world Day awareness, every October 15. An important date in several respects according to Marie-Laure of the Agapa Association, which accompanies the bereaved families “Today is the day when parents allow themselves to speak on the subject. This is important because this suffering has long remained in the sole domain of the intimate. Today, it deserves to be heard by society. »

Six out of 1,000 pregnancies

In France, in 2022, more than six out of 1,000 pregnancies thus stop according to the figures communicated by the University Hospital of Bordeaux. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines it as the loss of a baby between 22 weeks of amenorrhea (5e month of pregnancy) and the 7e day after birth. But the pain felt by the future parents is not conditioned by the number of days or weeks of gestation.

From the moment there is a desire for a child, the termination of the pregnancy can be experienced as a trauma. In our structure, we also support women who have had miscarriages during their first trimester.

Marie-LaureAgapa Advisor

“I felt him move less”

The first name had been chosen, in unison for Charline and her husband. It would be Raphael. In the decorated room, only the newborn was missing. Even the maternity bag was quietly waiting in the hallway. But nothing went as planned.

The drama unfolded one month before its term. She was entering her eighth month of pregnancy.

I felt him move less and less. I spoke about it to the doctors who did not seem worried. But inside I knew something was wrong, so I went to the ER.

“When the gynecologist at the Pellegrin maternity ward, after taking a single look at the ultrasound monitor, told me she was sorry for me, my world has collapsed, Charline reports. “I started to undress. I felt that my belly was getting huge at once. Too intrusive. »

Charline, mother of two children
Charline, mother of two children (©Photo sent to

The Miracle Pregnancy

It must be said that this agent in a kindergarten experienced a obstacle course before getting pregnant: six years to have your first baby, several attempts at in vitro fertilization and three miscarriages including one, particularly emotionally painful, which resulted in curettage.

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Also, by falling “naturally” pregnant with Raphael, Charline believed in a miracle.

It was at the time of confinement, all the PMA centers had closed. With my husband, we thought we were going to take a break.


But in the month of June 2021a presentiment leads him to make a pregnancy test. Then a confirmation at the analysis laboratory. “This time it was the right one! We were convinced of it, ”claims the Bordeaux woman, tenderly recounting the memories she keeps of this period.

The “little seahorse”, which she discovers on her gynecologist’s monitor. The first kicks, “in response to his voice or that of the dad”. ” A magic feeling, that we cannot understand until we have lived it. »

“Incredible violence”

But Charline also remembers her distress in the minutes that followed the announcement of the tragedy. This moment “when you have to act quickly, otherwise you will get an infection”.

You are told that your baby is dead, then that you will have to take medication to start labor. You are also asked if you want to have him buried or if you leave the body at the hospital, if you want to carry out an autopsy. It is unbelievably violent!

CharlieRaphael’s Mom

Two days. It’s the time it takes to give birth to Raphael. And in that time, a whirlwind of questions springs up. Questions that need to be answered quickly. Too fast. “I had refused to see him, probably out of fear. I had asked for a white sheet to be placed between me and him at the time of his birth. And afterwards, I refused to take him in my arms. I regret it now. »

Alas, accustomed to these births – approximately 7,000 each year in France – the childcare workers take care of dressing the stillborn babies, from the hat to the socks, and to photograph them. An important pillar of the work of mourning, according to the adviser of the association Agapathat of “recognition of the humanity of this baby”.

Parents are always offered to see the child. But often, they are not able to watch it. The hospital then keeps photos that they can consult whenever they wish. It shows that there was someone. That this baby existed.

Marie-LaureAgapa Advisor

The rest of the course – the administrative galleys, the choice of the funerary plaque, the registration in the family record book – would seem almost ridiculous in view of the drama families have just gone through. “But each step awakens the memory of the one who is not there. The one we didn’t know”, according to Charline.

The research is progressing slowly…

There are also all these Questions which remain unresolved. “I wondered if I had done something wrong during my pregnancy? Maybe I fell? Did I eat something wrong? “, has long wondered the mother of the family. What the autopsy de Raphaël came to answer in the negative. ” It’s here bad luck I was told, it happens. »

And this is unfortunately the case for many of these ” moms », as they like to call each other. “In 30% of cases, we are unable to give answers to these women and therefore an impossibility to offer them treatment to prevent recurrences”, deplores Professor Estibaliz Lazaro, from the internal medicine department of the Bordeaux University Hospital. .

“Women crumble when they are told they are healthy. For doctors, it is also theschool of humility“, completes Patrick Blanco, head of the immunology and immunogenetics department at the Pellegrin hospital, which houses the largest maternity hospital in France.

Surrounded by a hospital-university team (obstetrics gynecology, internal medicine and immunology) from the CHU and the University of Bordeaux, in collaboration with the CHU of Limoges and Poitiers, they carry out the “In utero care” program, a project aimed at better understanding the pregnancy-related pathologies with a view to better preventive care for patients.

This project will identify the factors associated with miscarriages and fetal deaths, through the study of three main axes that combine inflammatory, environmental and genetic aspects.

A unique project in the world

But there is still a long way to go. This project is today the only one of this scale in France, or even in the world. “Science has struggled to invest in this field of research”, says Professor Blanco for whom, “studies in pregnant women remain the poor relation of medicine”.

Charline, she did not wait for their conclusions to try to become a mother again. The outcome of her last pregnancy was happier. She is now a mother of a little girl 9 months and this first little angel, therefore. “When people ask me how many children I have, I always say two. »

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