Be­ing there through baby loss


LAST week was Baby Loss Aware­ness Week; a cam­paign led by the Still­birth and Neona­tal Death So­ci­ety (SANDS). The cam­paign aims to give be­reaved fam­i­lies the op­por­tu­nity to join to­gether in re­mem­ber­ing the ba­bies they have lost, to raise aware­ness of baby loss and im­prove the care avail­able for be­reaved par­ents.

I didn’t know of the cam­paign prior to the event but it has cer­tainly raised my aware­ness. Over the course of the week I heard sev­eral poignant ac­counts of fam­i­lies try­ing to come to terms with their grief.

I was moved to tears on more than one occasion.

De­spite af­fect­ing thou­sands of peo­ple in the UK each year, baby loss isn’t a topic we of­ten talk about. Some be­reaved par­ents may choose not to talk about their loss, but other times we may be re­luc­tant to reach out to the be­reaved for fear of up­set­ting them or say­ing the “wrong” thing.

Yet it’s worth con­sid­er­ing how we might sup­port those af­fected by baby loss as it’s likely to touch our own lives or those of peo­ple we care about at some point.

It’s es­ti­mated that one in five preg­nan­cies ends in mis­car­riage – around 250,000 in the UK per year.

Mis­car­riage most com­monly oc­curs dur­ing the first trimester but can hap­pen at any stage dur­ing the first 24 weeks of preg­nancy, after which it is known as still­birth.

Each year more than 3,000 ba­bies in the UK are still­born and over a fur­ther 2,500 die dur­ing the first year of life.

Baby loss at any stage is of­ten deeply dis­tress­ing and has a last­ing and far-reach­ing im­pact.

Psy­cho­log­i­cal ef­fects may in­clude de­pres­sion, anger, sleep dis­tur­bances, post-trau­matic stress, re­la­tion­ship is­sues and in­creased anx­i­ety dur­ing any sub­se­quent preg­nan­cies.

There’s no right or wrong way to feel fol­low­ing a be­reave­ment and each per­son’s ex­pe­ri­ence of grief after los­ing a baby will be dif­fer­ent.

In terms of sup­port­ing peo­ple through baby loss, those af­fected of­ten say they value kind­ness, com­pas­sion, un­der­stand­ing and ac­cess to re­li­able im­for­ma­tion and emo­tional sup­port.

We can all play a small part by reach­ing out to those who have been af­fected by baby loss. In the early days fol­low­ing a loss, small, prac­ti­cal things like keep­ing the fridge stocked, pre­par­ing meals and run­ning er­rands for the be­reaved fam­ily can make a big dif­fer­ence.

Go­ing for­ward, don’t be afraid to check in and ask how they are do­ing.

Fol­low their lead, be pa­tient and be there to lis­ten with­out judg­ment, if and when they are ready to talk.

See mis­car­riage­as­so­ci­a­ or for fur­ther in­for­ma­tion about baby loss.

Dr Ellie Milby is a coun­selling psy­chol­o­gist

There’s no right or wrong way to feel fol­low­ing a be­reave­ment

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