Baby Loss Awareness Week 2020
Baby Loss Awareness Week takes place on 9th – 15th October every year. It aims to commemorate babies who have died during pregnancy, at birth or in infancy, as well as raise awareness and support those who have suffered baby loss.
Barcan+Kirby are supporting this effort by sharing information and resources to help those who have suffered baby loss, those who know someone bereaved and who want to reach out, and those who want to support the organisations involved.
This year in particular, due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, Baby Loss Awareness Week is focusing on the feeling of isolation felt by mothers and their partners when they experience the loss of a baby. This will have been even more significant with mandatory isolation to stop the spread of the virus and the rules around partners attending antenatal appointments.
Many people will be experiencing their grief completely alone. The loss of a baby is often described a special kind of grief, as the parents-to-be never met their baby, and this year that will have been emphasised for a lot of partners who never got to attend scans, or see their baby’s heartbeat before the pregnancy was lost.
Baby loss and isolation
The issue of isolation is not new. There is something of an unspoken ‘rule’ in society that expectant parents should not announce their pregnancy until 12 weeks’ gestation in case of pregnancy loss. Whilst it is the case that around 80% of miscarriages occur in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, this code of silence shrouds miscarriage in secrecy, and sometimes shame. This waiting period reinforces the idea that pregnancy loss is something too personal to be shared with others, discourages bereaved parents-to-be from reaching out and intensifies the loneliness of dealing with the grief of a miscarriage. The Miscarriage Association has a helpful page about the feelings you might experience after suffering a miscarriage.
Around 25% of pregnancies end in miscarriage: it is so common that there needs to be much more openness about miscarriage and how we can support someone who has suffered one. You can download a useful infographic produced by the Miscarriage Association on what you can do to help a friend or family member who has suffered pregnancy loss here. Awareness seeks to normalise the conversation around pregnancy loss and moving towards supporting however parents-to-be want to grieve, be that publicly or privately: this is far better than allowing personal discomfort at hearing difficult news to stifle someone else’s bereavement process.
Psychological support for baby loss
The Baby Loss Awareness Alliance, led by SANDS (Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Charity), last year launched the ‘Out of Sight, Out of Mind’ campaign to call on UK governments to ensure that those who have suffered pregnancy or infant loss have access to specialist psychological support.
Parents will often go on to experience psychiatric illness over and above their grief, such as PTSD, and not be available to find available or appropriate support. Women have told me stories about how they feel that they cannot go to the corner shop for a pint of milk because they cannot face the possibility of the shopkeeper asking when the baby arrived, or that they cannot walk past the primary school on their way to work, or that they have to avoid the baby clothes section in their local department store.
SANDS has a mission to support those who are affected by the death of a baby, to improve the care offered to them, and to push for improvement in practice and fund research to prevent the future deaths of babies. This includes working towards safer maternity care and safer pregnancy advice.
Safer pregnancy advice
Best Beginnings launched the ‘Our Chance’ campaign in 2016 with SANDS (supported by the Department of Health and NHS England) which aims to maximise the chance of healthy pregnancies and births by educating women about symptoms that can lead to stillbirth. They have a selection of short films aimed to educate mothers about pregnancy, including about the importance of going to antenatal appointments, gestational diabetes, smoking and drinking, pre-eclampsia, and several other topics. Safer Pregnancy also gives straight-talking advice to pregnant women. Kicks Count aims to reduce stillbirths and neonatal deaths by highlighting the importance of awareness of baby’s movements.
Ensuring quality of care
SANDS also consider it vital that every baby death is reviewed to identify any gaps in the quality of care. Enquiries in 2015 in 2017 found that 60% of stillbirths might have been prevented if national health guidelines were followed and that 80% of babies who died as a result of something going wrong in labour might have lived had they received different care. SANDS give advice about different processes to review care and resources for parents on finding out why their baby died, Serious Incident investigations, what happens if in the NHS is at fault and involvement of the Coroner.
- The Miscarriage Association and SANDS, mentioned above, provide invaluable resources to those suffering baby loss.
- The Lullaby Trust works to reduce deaths from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome by providing life-saving sleeping advice, and supports bereaved families.
- SANDS has a comprehensive ‘useful links’ page which signposts to different charities, bereavement and mental health support (including for bereaved children), relationship counselling, information on pregnancy, resources to help with work, returning to work and applications for benefits, seeking legal advice, and many more.
How you can support Baby Loss Awareness Week
You can support Baby Loss Awareness Week by buying a pin or other merchandise, or making a donation to, the Baby Loss Awareness campaign, The Miscarriage Association, The Lullaby Trust, or SANDS, as well as numerous other related charities.
On 15th October 2020, there will also be a ‘Wave of Light’, where candles are lit in memory of the babies lost.