A Brief Glossary of Pregnancy and Infant Loss

(Topic: Loss, Terminology)


This post is part of my October – Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month series of posts, meant to be shared, particularly with people who do not have infant loss in their experience. Please feel free to share the link to the blog or directly to this or any other post.
(What is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month? Click here for the first post this month)

Words, Words, Words

Words are kinda my thing. I was an English major as an undergrad, and kept working with language when I got to grad school. So I noticed that there are some terms (words) that come up in the Pregnancy and Infant loss community that might be hard to understand for someone who hasn’t been in it for long, or someone on the outside. So just to clear everything up, here’s a little glossary of words I’ve come across, and what they are used for, as far as I have seen.

Abortion – Technically any pregnancy that ends early, whether wanted, intentional, accidental, or other. This word has many uses and often isn’t well defined at all, so I don’t want to go into this much here, but suffice to say that this is a hot button issue and best left quiet in groups of loss parents.

Angel baby ? or Star baby ‚≠ź – The baby who died. I see angel much more in this country, but it has strong religious overtones, so not everyone is comfortable with it. I have seen star baby as an option, primarily from a few of my European contacts, but I’m not sure if this is used consistently. Angel baby is fairly ubiquitous here and is widely understood to mean the baby who died, regardless of the parents’ religious affiliation. I have not personally spoken to anyone who is atheistic or of another religion to get their perspective, but I would love to hear if anyone knows other words for the baby.

Child Loss – Loss of a child, usually after the first birthday.

Infant Loss – Loss of a baby after birth, often up through the first birthday.

Loss parent, Loss mom/mama, Loss dad/papa – Terms for the parents of a baby who died. While not used everywhere, these do pop up, and you’ll see me use them here a lot.

Miscarriage – Any pregnancy that ends prior to 20 weeks of gestation.

Rainbow baby ? – See Sunshine baby… A rainbow doesn’t negate the storm, in fact, the storm must exist for a rainbow to follow… so this is the child following a loss. Again, not a perfect term for those who have multiple losses or losses interspersed with living children. And again, this term is widely used and understood, and is a very nice symbology in some ways, so many people use it.

Pregnancy Loss – Any loss during pregnancy, from conception all the way through birth.

Stillbirth – Any pregnancy that ends after 20 weeks (or sometimes 22, depending on who’s counting) of gestation, all the way through full term/birth.

Sunshine baby ? – This and Rainbow Baby are terms coming from a particular poem or concept, that the grief of losing a baby is a “storm” (with the tears = rain). Sunshine is before the storm, so this term is often used to refer to a child had before the baby that died. This can be problematic for people who have more than one loss, especially if interspersed between living children, but is a term commonly used and understood.

I’m sure there are others I could include but these are the biggest ones I’ve noticed. Comment below if you think of other terms that would be helpful to understand or share!



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