Why do women lose babies during pregnancy and birth?
Sadly 1 in 4 babies are lost during pregnancy and birth, and a further small amount are lost during the first year of life. Losing a baby is a deeply personal experience that affects people differently. No matter when in your pregnancy this happens, you may need support to help you come to terms with what’s happened.
Sometimes we know in advance the reasons for baby loss, some babies become poorly and their growth slows or they stop growing altogether and are too small to survive, sometimes they become sick, perhaps a termination is planned for medical reasons. Some women become sick during pregnancy or babies can very sadly and very rarely die during the birth process. Other pregnancies are never even known about as they end so early we never know the true reason.
Who is there for you?
The Dudley Group NHS Foundation Team understands the grieving that you are feeling at this tragic time. The Emergency Department, Early Pregnancy Unit, and Maternity Team all have experience and extensive training in baby loss. A named specialist midwife and the Neonatal Team are available for more specific advice and support for miscarriage, stillbirth and neonatal death. Local and national bereavement charities also offer extensive online and telephone support, as well as counselling services (detailed below).
Your antenatal care and your baby’s wellbeing
Throughout your antenatal care your midwives are constantly reviewing and monitoring you and your baby. This is done through face-to-face or telephone conversations, education, urine and blood pressure testing, blood tests and scanning.
Later in pregnancy feeling your baby’s movements is done by women themselves, we know that when baby’s movements reduce or suddenly increase this can be a sign your baby is sick and further monitoring in the hospitals Day Assessment Unit or triage departments may be required so observations can take place and a decision made as to whether to deliver the baby early in some cases. For further information on reduced baby movements visit Kicks Count or download their app.
It is thought that around 1 in 5 women will have a miscarriage in their lifetime. Early miscarriages are those within the first 12 weeks – a lot of women do not realise they are pregnant, in most cases it is not possible to give a reason to these losses. In 1% of pregnancies the egg attaches itself to somewhere outside of the uterus. This is known as an ectopic pregnancy. For more information visit the NHS website. Late miscarriages happen after 12 weeks up until 24 weeks, this is less common at 1-2% of loss. Support and guidance is available for parents who experience this grief see Miscarriage and your feelings for more information.
At or after 24 weeks baby loss is called stillbirth. This is a legal definition as these babies are most likely to survive if born, with support from the neonatal team.
For parents this can be the most devastating thing they will go through. If it is thought your baby may die during pregnancy, birth, or shortly afterwards, practical support such as additional testing, scans and medication, information, guidance for care or difficult decisions and planning that may need to be made about palliative care for your baby can happen.
Questions around stillbirth
It is natural to want to know and understand why your baby has died. This can be straightforward if the answer is clear, sometimes a doctor or coroner can run tests or do a post-mortem to find out this information. Sometimes we just do not know why we lose babies and this lack of understanding can be hard to live with. If you are sadly in this situation a midwife will be able to help and talk with you and guide you to a wider range of support.
If a baby is born and they pass away within 28 days this is called a neonatal death. Most of these deaths are linked to babies born too soon or too small who are at higher risk of infection and serious health complications. Sometimes this happens even if they were born at full-term. This is because some babies are found to have genetic disorders, develop complications before, during or after birth, or develop a life-threatening infection.
For stillbirth and neonatal death, the maternity and neonatal team offers you and your baby dignity and privacy. They ensure you have time together as a family to spend with your baby in a private area to collect memories and maybe create memory boxes.
They will assist you to officially register your baby with a death certificate, so you can be offered a burial or cremation, which is free within the Dudley borough. Memorial services are regularly held throughout the area and can help with your grieving process.
It is also worth considering peer support by meeting other families who have experienced baby loss. You may also wish to link with charities or fundraise yourself to raise awareness of baby loss so that further research on it can be conducted and more people understand how it affects families.
Who is there to support you through baby loss?
Here is information available to you for emotional, practical and peer support. Talking about loss openly and honestly can help not only the way you feel but make each other feel less alone. It can also pave the way for greater awareness and more research to stop it happening.
Contact: Jenny 07763 013364
Where: Dudley Community Church, 36 Salop Street, Dudley, DY1 3AT
When: First Saturday of every month 5-7pm