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 miscarriageassociation.org.uk or sands.org.uk 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