Baby Loss Awareness Week

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:52 pm on 9th October 2018.

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Photo of Ben Lake Ben Lake Plaid Cymru, Ceredigion 6:52 pm, 9th October 2018

Let me begin by expressing my admiration for Antoinette Sandbach, who made such a powerful contribution to the debate and, in particular, for her personification of bravery when recounting what can only have been a painfully traumatic experience.

I speak as someone who has not lost a child and who, as such, cannot begin to imagine how harrowing, how devastating, such a loss must be. I cannot begin to understand what it feels like to have enjoyed the exhilaration of expecting a new addition to the family and the months of anticipation and preparation, and then to be deprived of such joy.

As a society, we must strive to reduce the UK stillbirth rate, which remains high in comparison with those of other wealthy countries. There is also a disparity within the United Kingdom that needs to be acknowledged: Wales still has the highest stillbirth rate, at 4.44 per 1,000 births. Others who are present this evening will have far greater experience and expertise than I—so I will keep my remarks brief—but it appears to me that a range of measures will be needed to reduce our rate significantly. For example, researchers from the University of Edinburgh have recently discovered that introducing a package of care when women report a change in foetal movements can help to reduce the stillbirth rate slightly. Raising awareness among expectant mothers is important, but we should also ensure that training for front-line maternity professionals is not only available but prioritised, so that they are best able to react to any change in movements reported by mothers. Training and resources must be made available to maternity units so that they can act promptly when necessary.

As I am sure will be mentioned later this evening, hand in hand with greater awareness of changes in foetal movement is the potential for an enhanced programme of ultrasound scanning into the third trimester—which occurs elsewhere in Europe—to measure a baby’s growth more effectively, potentially reduce the number of adverse perinatal outcomes caused by foetal growth restriction and prevent avoidable deaths. This is, of course, at the heart of the debate: the desire to represent the experiences of parents who have lost their child and, from their strength, endeavour to prevent others from having to suffer the agony of losing their child.

Let me express my admiration for the bravery of all the parents—some, I know, are in the Chamber this evening—who have lost a child. I am simply in awe of those who are able to speak so eloquently about their loss and work determinedly to improve things for other parents. I pay particular homage to the Members who are so active in the all-party parliamentary group on baby loss.

A young couple in my constituency embody such courage and fortitude. Having lost their little girl, Mari-Leisa Jên, this summer, Clare and Gareth have undertaken a range of initiatives to raise money to help to fund the purchase of additional “cuddle cots” for Ceredigion. The cots allow grieving families to have more time with their children— precious time in which to make lifelong memories—and I thank the charity Cariad Angel Gowns for enabling that to happen for Clare and Gareth.

The couple have climbed Snowdon to help raise money for the cots and to raise awareness of the causes of perinatal loss. Close friends completed the Cardiff half-marathon this weekend in memory of Mari-Leisa Jên. At a time of unimaginable grief, when most would understandably retire into themselves, Clare and Gareth have thought of helping others and, to date, have raised thousands of pounds. Such incredible resilience speaks for the strength and depth of their love for Mari-Leisa, and although her time with us was all too brief, the impact that she has had on family, friends and the local community is second to none. Mari-Leisa fach has brought them together to make a positive difference for others, and I, for one, cannot think of a more loving or a more worthy legacy.