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Baby Loss Awareness Week

Part of Business of the House (Prorogation) – in the House of Commons at 5:20 pm on 8th October 2019.

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Photo of Patricia Gibson Patricia Gibson Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Consumer Affairs) 5:20 pm, 8th October 2019

I begin by thanking Antoinette Sandbach for bringing forward this debate. She and I and other Members of the House share a particular interest in this issue. I can hardly believe that another year has passed and we are once again reflecting on Baby Loss Awareness Week, which culminates in Baby Loss Awareness Day on 15 October. Once again, I wish to say that that day is particularly special to me, not just because it is international Baby Loss Awareness Day, but because it was on that day that my son was born stillborn at full term in 2009. He would now have been 10—a baby no more. I think of him every day; in that respect, I am no different from any other parent who has gone through this terrible trauma.

Every single bereaved parent who has lost a baby feels exactly the same about their baby whose life was ended before it could properly begin. That is why I have used my position as an MP, as far as I can, to raise awareness of this issue and help break the taboo around this awful experience. Many Members across this House have done the same. Baby Loss Awareness Day and this week are important. Sadly, every year more people are drawn into the appalling statistics of those who have lost their baby in whatever circumstances.

The theme of this year’s reflection is access to mental health support for those who need it in the wake of baby loss. Who could argue with that? Indeed, only last week some of us were in this very Chamber discussing women’s mental health. Access to mental health support in the wake of baby loss is important not just for mums, but for dads, too, and indeed extended family members struggling with the loss of a baby whom they had expected to be welcoming to the family. Today, more families will have suffered a stillbirth and will somehow have to try to cope with this appalling trauma.

Mental health support is very important for bereaved parents who need it, not just from a compassionate or moral point of view, although those are important, but from a practical, social and economic point of view. In past debates on the issue, I and others have spoken about the fog of grief that comes from having to bury your baby—the bewildering sense of the world being turned completely on its head. While 50% of marriages end in divorce, parents who suffer the loss of a child are eight times more likely again to separate and divorce, heaping heartbreak on top of heartache. Easier and more prompt access to the correct mental health support could help mitigate that awful statistic, and perhaps help parents who are struggling with grief to stay married, return to the world of work, and remain economically active, which can in time prevent the isolation that grief brings with it too often.