9-15 October is Baby Loss Awareness Week
Across the country 21 pregnancy and baby loss charities are involved in raising awareness. This includes charities supporting parents who lose babies through miscarriage, stillbirth and during the neonatal period.
On 13 October, Parliament debated the issues around Baby Loss and called for more to be done to reduce the number of deaths.
Speaking ahead of the debate, Will Quince MP, who lost his own son at birth two years ago said:
The sad case is around half of stillbirths are preventable…That is 2,000 babies a year. That is 2,000 families who don’t have to go through this. And we have one of the best healthcare systems in the world. The government has pledged to cut the number of these preventable deaths by 2020 and halve it by 2030 and are putting the money in to help. But there is the issue that care isn’t consistent across NHS trusts.’
What are some of the causes of baby loss?
- Miscarriage is defined as loss of an embryo with the cut off point often being around 23 weeks of pregnancy. It can have many causes including infection, chromosome abnormality, problems with the placenta. Maternal health can sometimes play a role with higher risk in mothers who are diabetic, have high blood pressure or kidney disease.
- Stillbirth is being born with no signs of life after 24 weeks of pregnancy (this date varies from country to country). The causes can include birth asphyxia eg cord wrapped around neck or delayed delivery when supply of oxygen has been reduced for some other reason eg placental abruption. The majority of stillbirths are in babies who have no major birth defects and one third of these will be following a full term pregnancy.
- Baby loss in the Neonatal period is death during the first 4 weeks of life. Causes can include infection with for example the Group B Strep infection which can result in serious illness leading to death.
How common is baby loss?
Miscarriage is common and affects 1 in 4 pregnancies.
Currently every year around 3,500 babies in the UK are stillborn or 1 in 200 babies. In addition a further 2,000 babies die during the neonatal period.
How can baby loss be prevented?
Training of staff and adequate resources in all maternity units would provide better support for families with any kind of baby loss. It could also go a long way to reducing stillbirths, as could ensuring that there is better maternal awareness of when to seek help from medical professionals if there are any worrying signs at any stage of pregnancy.
Testing for Group B Strep during pregnancy, as is standard in many European countries would reduce the incidence of Neonatal Death. See our blog on International GBS Awareness Month for more information.
What other support is needed?
While prevention is part of the message, the Parliamentary debate also looked at the treatment of grieving parents within the NHS and ensuring that care and support following bereavement is of a high standard and consistent throughout providers.
Although most strive to provide supportive and sensitive care, limited resources and training budgets mean that this is not always possible.
Raising awareness among the general public is also part of the message. Parents often find themselves isolated and unable to talk about their loss with friends and family. Well meant comments are often made which fail to appreciate the deep pain and trauma of what bereaved families are going through.
Now that this is being actively debated by Parliament it is hoped that families will have both improved outcomes and fewer instances of baby loss as well as better support if they are grieving.
Our team of highly experienced and accredited lawyers have vast experience in this specialist area of Clinical Negligence in cases of baby loss or injury which could be prevented with better care. If the issues in this article have affected you, a family member or friend, contact us to find out whether we can assist on 0800 316 8892 or by completing our online enquiry form.