A Tragic Stillbirth is a plotline detailing the fallout and heartbreak after a child dies in the womb. For whatever reason, they ended up dying in the birthing process or prior to labor. While a Convenient Miscarriage can cause characters great grief, a stillborn baby is far more likely to be treated on par with the Death of a Child. This is because a tragic pregnancy is considered a stillbirth if the baby dies after 20 weeks of gestation, whereas a miscarriage is earlier.
In historical or pseudohistorical settings, a Tragic Stillbirth puts extra pressure on women who need to produce an heir.
Ghosts of stillborn often appear to haunt their family, especially siblings, in fiction. They're usually Undead Children or even adults, as ghosts of newborns would be seen as too morbid for most viewers.
Compare and contrast to Convenient Miscarriage, Forced Miscarriage, Death of a Child, and Law of Inverse Fertility. Can involve Death by Childbirth, though usually the mother survives. See Birth/Death Juxtaposition and Life/Death Juxtaposition.
- After much preparation for the baby, Daisuke's sister ends up having a stillbirth in Bitter Virgin. The story arc came about after the author herself had a stillbirth.
- In Cavalier of the Abyss, Iffrita had lost her original child in this way, which spurred her into taking her rival's child and attempting to have her killed.
- Izumi from Fullmetal Alchemist gave birth to a stillborn child prior to the series, whom she tried to bring him to life through alchemy. However, as reviving beings is impossible, she ended up losing her reproductive system due to Equivalent Exchange. That is why she's an Ill Girl who frequently coughs up Blood from the Mouth. In the manga, she ends up healed in the end. In the 2003 anime, the transmutation worked in a way. A few years later Izumi finds a Wild Child who turns out to be a homonculi created from her attempt at reviving her son. Once Wrath regains his memories, he lashes out against Izumi for feeling she abandoned him after she 'failed' to revive him. In this continuity, Izumi also eventually succumbs to her injuries. Wrath didn't forgive Izumi until right before her death, though they end up Together in Death soon afterwards.
- Himitsu no Akko-chan: Akko's full name, Atsuko, comes from her stillborn older sister who was supposed to be named "Atsuko".
- In Mahou Sensei Negima!, Ayaka's little brother was stillborn and it's heavily implied that she projects her feelings for him onto Negi (since he would have been around Negi's age if he was alive). Chapter 14 shows that it's still affecting her, even ten years after the fact (it's even the subject of her Image Song in the first anime).
- A Different Point Of View: Over a decade ago, Buster's mom Bitzi mysteriously lost her pregnancy. She had been beaten up a few days prior, but there was no proof that the two incidents were related. She never told anyone but her husband, so she told her peers that she was just sick. The baby's remains were cremated and spread on the eastern side of their home island.
- Foreigner is an Alternate Universe Fic where a two-year old Katara is captured by the Fire Nation as a child. She is adopted by a couple who had a stillbirth three years prior.
- How I Became Yours: The story kicks off with Katara visiting a memorial shrine to a stillbirth she had a few years prior. Zuko's lover Mai poisoned a six-months pregnant Katara, causing her to miscarry.
- One of the stories-within-a-story in How to Write a TSS Story? ends with Victor and Anita experiencing a stillbirth.
- In chapter 1 part 1 of SilfofinaDragon's Sengoku Basara fanfic Let's Endless Party!, Date Masamune and Sanada Yukimura's son Masa gets impregnanted at the age of thirteen with Oyamada Nobushige's child, but sadly miscarries.
- Little Fires:
- Eelfoot was expected to have a large litter of five kits, but only Emberkit was born successfully. The other four were stillbirths. As a result of the tragedy, she coddles her only child.
- Goosepaw's mother Mousefur gave birth to several stillborns and then died. Goosepaw was the only survivor of the litter. With no father, her brother Beechfur took over as her father figure.
- It's suspected that ThunderClan has "bad blood" (due to inbreeding), resulting in several sickly kits and stillbirths.
- The Naruto fic The Losses We Share (and Those We Don't) is about Hanabi and Konohamaru's difficulties having a child. Within the span of three years they have ten miscarriages and a stillbirth. Their marriage becomes strained and the trauma takes a toll on both of them. Eventually, however, Hanabi gives birth to a daughter.
- The fanfic Morticia is Pregnant sees Morticia Addams lose three babies this way.
- It's revealed in My Sister Leni that Lori had a twin sister who was stillborn, and that Leni was named after Lori's twin. Lori's parents had intended to wait until she was older to tell her, but she found the pregnancy journals in the attic at age ten.
- Prerugrats, a fanfiction about the backstories of the cast of Rugrats, reveals that prior to having Tommy, Stu and Didi had a stillborn baby named Spencer. His stillbirth causes the parents grief, especially Didi, but it's only a portion of the plot. The fic itself isn't a complete and utter Dark Fic, although it does have its dark moments.
- Occurs in the second half of The Secret, a The Hobbit fanfiction. Even though Thorin despises Leena, he does care about their unborn daughter and he and Dis are both devastated when the baby is stillborn; Dis even wonders if their family is cursed to never have children. Emma also feels very sad for Thorin when she hears the news and Thorin goes through a period of mourning before asking Emma to marry him. When Emma later gets pregnant, Thorin's memory of his stillborn daughter and fear of history repeating itself darkens the otherwise happy occasion.
- When the Bough Breaks is a My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fic where Cadance has a miscarriage late into her pregnancy. It deals with her and her husband Shining's feelings surrounding the death. The fic was written before Flurry Heart was revealed, so the foal is not her; it's an OC son.
- In the directors' cut of The Butterfly Effect, Evan and his mother go to a palm-reader, who states that Evan has no lifeline on his palm and hence shouldn't exist. Evan's mother, upset by this, reveals that before Evan's birth she had two stillbirths, so Evan was her "miracle baby". At the end of the film Evan travels back in time to his own birth and commits suicide in utero. The implication is that his mother's previous children had the same Mental Time Travel ability as Evan and made the same decision to kill themselves.
- One young woman of the Clan of the Cave Bear goes into labor and delivers a stillborn baby soon after the Clan finds a new home. Ayla witnesses this, and asks the wise Mog-ur why the baby was dead. This is where Ayla learns that the Clan connect living tribe members with deceased ancestors.
- In Ophelia, Mechtild reveals to the title character that when she was nineteen she fell pregnant with her lover's baby, who promised to marry her. However, her baby son died in her womb, which was the catalyst for the townsfolk turning on her and calling her a witch, while her lover dropped out of the picture. Mechtild escaped execution but was forced to live alone in the woods to avoid persecution. She makes it very clear to Ophelia that decades later, she still grieves for her stillborn son.
- In Philippa Gregory's The Constant Princess, Catherine of Aragon is violently affected by her first miscarriage, while Henry manages to move on rather quickly. It gets harder as the miscarriages pile up, though. This is a recurring theme in Gregory's books, also seen in The Cousins' War Series and The Other Boleyn Girl.
- A backstory point in The Crocodile God. The Filipino sea-god Haik and his mortal wife Mirasol's first daughter is stillborn, due to a Spaniard shooting Mirasol in the stomach after finding out Haik was a native god, and Mirasol ends up giving birth to a tiny, dead whale-calf. Haik is especially traumatized because not only is this a personal family loss, it clinches the Death of the Old Gods in the Philippines.
- In the Earth's Children series, Jetamio has stillborn son due to labour complications. She herself dies because of the complications and the healer who attends her performs a posthumous C-section to save the baby, but is too late. The double tragedy is utterly devastating for her mate, who sinks into a deep depression and even seems to wish he was dead too.
- In the Fairy Oak series, this happened during Mrs. Windflower second pregnancy, and it's the reason behind her overprotective nature over Titch.
- In The Grapes of Wrath, eldest daughter Rose is pregnant for most of the novel, but the baby is stillborn, possibly due to malnutrition as the novel takes place during the height of the Dust Bowl. The novel ends with the family taking refuge in an abandoned barn with a boy and his father who is dying of starvation, and Rose feeds the man with her breast milk.
- The Mirror Crack'd from Side to Side: Movie star Marina Gregg suffered several miscarriages. When she finally was able to bring a child to term, her son was born with severe birth defects after she contracted German Measles while pregnant with him. This resulted in her murdering the obsessive fan who had unwittingly infected her.
- A Song of Ice and Fire features a few examples:
- Selyse Baratheon has suffered this multiple times. Her mind is slowly slipping from sanity because of the number of times her children were born dead. Only one survived, but it was a girl, and was struck with greyscale at an early age. In the show, after witnessing her daughter burnt as a sacrifice, she went to the woods and hung herself.
- Daenerys Targaryen becomes pregnant in A Game of Thrones with a son, Rhaego. However, the baby is ultimately stillborn and reportedly also comes out hideously deformed, blind with scales and bat-like wings; his skin falls away from his body to reveal graveworms. It's indicated to be a side effect of a Blood Magic ritual Dany had requested of Mirri Maz Duur to save her husband, Drogo's life, as Rhaego was perfectly healthy prior to this. Dany is left unable to conceive another child (Mirri cryptically claims she will never bear another child and Dany hasn't had a period since the stillbirth). She grieves both the loss of Rhaego and any other children she may have had, which is what makes her so protective and affectionate towards her dragons, the "only children she will ever have."
- In the backstory, it is rumoured that Ashara Dayne threw herself from one of Starfall's towers into sea because her baby daughter was stillborn (although it's unknown if she was even pregnant in the first place).
- Rhaella Targaryen (mother of Daenerys) suffered at least two stillbirths and a number of miscarriages for seventeen years after giving birth to a healthy child, Rhaegar (she also had a few babies who didn't live past infancy). Her husband (and brother) Aerys initially comforted her, but eventually, in his madness and paranoia he accused her of being unfaithful and her pregnancies the product of affairs. He kept Rhaella confined in Maegor's Holdfast and forced her to sleep with two septas in her bed to ensure she remained faithful. When she finally did give birth to another healthy child, Viserys, Aerys took extreme measures to keep the young prince safe, not even allowing Rhaella to be alone with him.
- In the backstory, Rhaenyra Targaryen's only daughter, Visenya, was stillborn and also had severe malformations. Rhaenyra blamed her daughter's loss on her stepmother and half-brother for usurping her throne, vowing never to forgive them. And so began the Dance of the Dragons.
- At the beginning of the fifth book of the Sword of Truth series, a woman from the Mud People tribe gives birth to a dead baby, due to a trio of genocidal demonic spirits on the loose.
- Mentioned several times in The Red Tent. In particular, it happens to Leah, who gives birth prematurely to what would have been Dinah's baby sister. The adult women (who are used to miscarriages and stillbirths) treat it as a normal part of life, but this is Dinah's first real experience with death. They do give the stillborn girl a real burial, however.
- When Bella and Arrow have puppies in Survivor Dogs, one is born stillborn. Arrow "talks" to her in a sad hello/goodbye speech:
But this Pack won't always be easy. There will be problems, and dangers, and some other dogs will distrust your litter-brothers, even though they've never hurt anyone, just because of who their Father-Dog is. And I'm... glad that you won't have to know what that's like. I wish you had stayed. I wish that you'll know how loved you were. Your Mother-Dog and I are sorry we'll never see you grow. We— we know you would have been a good dog.
- The characters in Warrior Cats have a high chance of stillbirths compared to real cats. This may be Artistic License Biology or it may be related to their inbreeding.
- In Game of Thrones (as in the books), near the end of Season 1 Daenerys Targaryen's son Rhaego is stillborn as a result of the Blood Magic ritual Mirri Maz Duur carried out to save his father's life. According to Mirri, Rhaego came out looking like a monster, with scales and wings, and when she touched him his skin fell away from his bones (likely a result of the spell). Rhaego's death reportedly paid for Drogo's life...only for Daenerys to learn that although alive, her husband has been left in a vegetative state. Worse still, Daenerys is left incapable of having any more children (at least according to Mirri). She gets revenge on her by burning her on Drogo's funeral pyre and using her death to magically hatch her dragons, whom she views as her children. Although Daenerys rarely mentions Rhaego after this, she is clearly still affected by his death. In Season 2, she is nearly tempted to stay in the House of the Undying after encountering a vision of Drogo and Rhaego still alive. She is also very protective of her dragons as they are "the only children [she] will ever have."
- If a Soap Opera doesn't make a woman have a Convenient Miscarriage, odds are highly likely they will invoke this—The Young and the Restless' Ashley, The Bold and the Beautiful's Amber (twice) and Morgan, As the World Turns' Carly, Days of Our Lives' Billie, One Life to Live's Cassie, Blair, and Jessica (twice) all lost their babies at near-term—Jessica was hit by a car as she was going into labor. Adding insult to injury, several of these women were Happily Married and wanted the child in question, so this wasn't some roundabout way to avoid the controversy of her having an abortion or get rid of a child that resulted from adultery.
- Grey's Anatomy sees Jackson and April lose their unborn son due to the latter having osteogenesis imperfecta.
- In Beyond: Two Souls, Aiden is revealed to be the ghost of Jodie's stillborn twin brother, who had accidentally strangled himself with his own umbilical cord in their mom's womb. Needless to say, Jodie has never been told she (almost) had a twin.
- In Bloodborne, Mergo is a stillborn Great One belongs to Yharnam the Pthumerian Queen and is the source of the nightmare. In order to halt the source of the nightmare, you have to slay her, as held by her Wet Nurse.
- Defied in Crusader Kings 2. The characters fertility is drastically reduced to compensate for the Middle Ages rate of miscariages and stillbirths, since the creators thought that dozens of dead babies would be too depressing for players.
- In Mass Effect, the Krogans have been afflicted with a disease called the Genophage, which causes 99.99% of their young to be stillborn in order to keep their population growth at pre-industrial revolution levels, with devastating consequences for species-wide morale. The decision to cure the Genophage is a plotline that spans the three games of the original trilogy.
- Paranoiac: It's revealed that Miki Takamura's aunt Saeki had a stillborn baby, which was the catalyst for her mental breakdown and many of the subsequent events of the game.
- In Air, Minagi's little sister Michiru was stillborn, and her mother took it so badly that she erased Minagi from her memory and started calling her by her unborn sister's name.
- This appears to be the case with the Urashima Woman in Spirit Hunter: NG, whose child apparently died in stillbirth according to a certificate made by the midwife. In reality, the midwife lied, and proving the child is alive is what's required to pacify the Urashima Woman (insisting that he was stillborn will instead destroy her, and lead to the gruesome death of Akira's companion).
- In Umineko: When They Cry, Kyrie's son was stillborn and she coincidentally delivered the same day at the same hospital where her lover Rudolf's legal wife was giving birth to their son Battler, causing Kyrie to secretly resent Battler for years for having the position her own son might have had had he lived. But in actuality, Kyrie is Battler's biological mother, since Rudolf's legitimate son was stillborn, and he decided to swap the babies.
- Hyena people in Digger, like hyenas in real life, usually lose their firstborn due to their unusual genitals, and have built mythologies and social coping mechanisms around this fact. However, Ed, the primary hyena in the story, was one of the few to survive, and was thus considered very special by his people. His wife convinced herself that her own firstborn would also survive, and when this did not happen, went mad with grief, and was eventually driven to spousal abuse and accidental infanticide.
- In Drowtales, Shinae's child was stillborn. Worse, due to the effects of her demonic taint it was born covered in spikes and the father was so horrified he ordered it burned.