The loss of a baby through stillbirth or miscarriage is an emotionally traumatic event that no parent ever forgets. Parents who were expecting and anticipating a new life but instead find themselves grieving a death, find it immensely difficult to accept the loss of their baby as a reality.
This can be especially difficult when a mother has given birth to her baby, which was stillborn. She will still experience all of the usual post-natal reactions, which can be particularly distressing when trying to process the death of the baby.
Fathers often also have a lot to cope with. As well as grieving the loss of their child, their concern for the mother makes this an extremely difficult time. The focus among friends and family is often the mother, meaning that fathers are generally asked how the mother is, rather than how they are coping or feeling as fathers. Fathers also need support and ways to express grief after losing their baby.
Many people experience anxiety and guilt in the days following their loss and some individuals go on to develop depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These individuals may find it helpful to discuss their feelings with their doctor or midwife or with other individuals who have also lost their baby.
In the UK, there are a number of support groups available to help people who have lost their baby through miscarriage or stillbirth. A stillbirth and neonatal death charity called “Sands” provides support for anyone who has experienced this loss and runs a telephone helpline people can use to access information and literature about support. The charity also funds research investigating the causes of stillbirth.
There is also a number of other support groups in the UK that provide help for bereaved parents and their family members. The groups are usually run by people who specialise in baby loss, parents who have lost their babies and specialist midwives. Support groups are also available for women who have lost their baby due to a specific cause such as pre-eclampsia, intrahepatic cholestasis (ICP) or group B streptococcus. Examples include “ICP support”, “Action on Pre-eclampsia” and “Group B Strep Support.”
Reviewed by Yolanda Smith, BPharm