“The death of a baby is not a rare event. It can happen to anyone. Every year, thousands of people in the UK are affected by the death of a baby or experience pregnancy loss.
A collaboration between more than 60 charities across the UK, Baby Loss Awareness Week is held from 9 to 15 October to raise awareness about the key issues affecting those who have experienced pregnancy loss or baby death in the UK.
Throughout the week bereaved parents, their families and friends, unite with each other and others across the world to commemorate the lives of babies who died during pregnancy, at or soon after birth and in infancy” (Babylossawareness.org/).
A baby/pregnancy loss can be physically and emotionally challenging for everyone involved. Feelings such as loss, anger, failure, blame, shock, disbelief, emptiness, confusion, guilt and fear may be experienced. A time of happiness and joy can become a time of sorrow, grief and mourning.
A miscarriage occurs when a baby dies before 24 weeks gestation and 1 in 4 women will experience a miscarriage. A stillbirth is the death of a baby after 24 weeks gestation and in 2016 the rate was 1 in every 224 births in the UK. A neonatal death occurs when a baby dies within the first 28 day of birth. In 2016 in England and Wales the rate was 2.7 deaths per 1,000 live births
In 2016, SANDS (Stillbirth & Neonatal Death Charity: Bereavement Care in UK Maternity Units 2016 – A Snapshot) found that bereavement care across the country varied and 38% of maternity units did not have a specialist bereavement midwife. The main role of a bereavement midwife is to provide support and information to bereaved parents, their families and staff.
They also found that 1 in 3 Trusts and Health Boards did not have a dedicated bereavement room in each maternity unit they cover. This meant that bereaved parents could be on a normal labour or postnatal ward; which could compound their grief.
So what support may be available if you suffer a baby/pregnancy loss?
1) Bereavement care training for all staff involved with bereaved parents,
2) All maternity staff to have access to a bereavement midwife,
3) A dedicated bereavement room or suite, away from the sound of live babies and happy parents,
4) Support booklets should be available for parents and professional guidelines on each unit and
5) All parents should be given the opportunity to discuss a post mortem examination with an experienced midwife or doctor.
Once discharged you will be under the care of the Community Midwives who will provide continued support at home e.g. managing lactation, emotional support. You may also be visited by your Health Visitor who may provide listening visits. Your GP will provide postnatal support, you can be referred for counselling and may have a follow up hospital appointment.
Volunteer befriending services, telephone support lines, local support groups, hospital chaplains, your religious leader, plus family and friends can also be a great source of support.
Fathers, partners, grandparents, siblings and other family members must not be forgotten during this time and will also need to be supported. It is important for them to talk about their feelings and how the death is affecting them.
Creating Memories of Your Baby
Special memories of your baby can be created by seeing and holding them, dressing them, taking photographs, having hand and footprints in ink/moulds or having a memory box. If you have an early miscarriage you may not be able to create all of these memories.
Further reading suggestions
Lullaby Trust: www.lullabytrust.org.uk
TAMBA Bereavement Support Group: www.tamba.org.uk/bsg TOMMY’s: www.tommys.org
We also provide antenatal and postnatal support, plus listening visits in the comfort of your home.
Stillbirth & Neonatal Death Charity: Bereavement Care in UK Maternity Units 2016 – A Snapshot, www.sands.org.uk SANDS: Sands principles for bereavement care, www.sands.org.uk Baby Loss Awareness Week 2018, https://babyloss-awareness.org/ The Miscarriage Association: https://www.miscarriageassociation.org.uk/informtion/