Legal information

Registering your baby's birth and receiving a birth certificate will usually depend on the baby's age of gestation when they were born. This will affect practical things relating to funeral arrangements. 

Legal information 

Births are generally registered with the Birth, Deaths and Marriages Registry in the state that that the baby was born. When a baby dies, their birth can only be registered if they meet certain criteria.  There are slight differences from state to state but generally the following criteria is universal:

A baby’s birth must be registered if:

  • the baby shows signs of life at birth
  • the baby does not show signs of life at birth but gestation is 20 weeks or more.

A birth cannot be registered if:

  • the baby shows no signs of life at birth and is less than 20 weeks gestation.

Sometimes it’s not clear when the baby died, or how many weeks pregnant the mother was at the time of death. In this case the doctor will look at other things, like the baby’s weight, to estimate the age at the time of death.

Registered births – important things to know

  • There is usually a time limit for registering the baby’s birth.
  • It will be possible for the parents to get a copy of the baby’s birth certificate, which will also refer to the baby’s death.
  • Hospitals will generally support parents with funeral arrangements.
  • Parents may be entitled to social security benefits through Services Australia (formerly Centrelink).   

The Coroner

Sometimes a live-born baby’s death has to be reported to the State Coroner for further investigation, particularly if a doctor is unable to record a cause of death.

The Coroner is not able to investigate a stillbirth or a birth that can’t be registered.

Unregistered births – important things to know

If gestation is less than 20 weeks and the baby showed no signs of life at birth, the birth cannot be registered. If there is no registration of birth there is also no registration of death.

Some hospitals offer parents a Recognition of Life certificate.

Depending on where your baby was born, you will usually have several options:

  • you can take your baby home to be buried
  • the hospital may offer communal cremations
  • a hospital-arranged funeral service where your baby can either be buried or cremated
  • you can organise a private funeral.

All of these options will vary in terms of cost and service, depending on where your baby was born.


The Women’s does not accept any liability to any person for the information or advice (or use of such information or advice) which is provided on the Website or incorporated into it by reference. The Women’s provide this information on the understanding that all persons accessing it take responsibility for assessing its relevance and accuracy. Women are encouraged to discuss their health needs with a health practitioner. If you have concerns about your health, you should seek advice from your health care provider or if you require urgent care you should go to the nearest Emergency Dept.