Baby Loss Awareness Week

Part of Business of the House (Prorogation) – in the House of Commons at 6:18 pm on 8th October 2019.

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Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health) 6:18 pm, 8th October 2019

I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention and I can relate it to my constituency and the people I have spoken to. The thing that sustained my sister, my mother and my PPSs was their faith, which is why come back to the importance of having faith, as I said to the hon. Member for Colchester. In the past year, I have known of two women in my constituency who knew that their baby would not live for more than a couple of hours after the birth yet they carried their baby to its full nine months and enjoyed those few hours together. I am a member of many organisations, one of which is the Royal Black Preceptory. We helped the father of a young child who was lost with a charity event at the bowling club in Ballywater to raise money for this issue, and we raised some £1,000.

I wanted to say all that because it is important, as everyone deals with things in their own way. About one to two in 100 women have a miscarriage in the second trimester. According to one study, once a pregnancy gets past six to seven weeks and there is a heartbeat, the risk of having a miscarriage drops to about 10%. Those are the facts and they are worthy of noting, but they cannot begin to deal with the process of grief that is suffered. It may sound comforting for people to understand that one in four pregnancies ends in a loss and so they are not alone, but, as one lady said, “I don’t want to be the one in four, I want to be the three who live their life as normal and don’t have this emptiness inside.”

It is important to note the facts, but it is more important to acknowledge the grief and the right to grieve. Long gone are the days of, “Just don’t talk about your loss.” We have learned that for those who wish to express themselves it is healing to do so. Some people need to talk about it, but some decide that they may not. Of course many women will never talk of their loss, and that too is part of their process and is to be respected. For others, the symbolism of a balloon release or the lighting of a candle is a way of acknowledging a life that did not blossom but was most definitely there.

We do not understand why many miscarriages take place, but with an NHS under such pressure—I say that really gently, because we have a wonderful NHS that does great work—we do not investigate until the third miscarriage. That in itself is incredibly difficult. I know of one lady whose parents, after encouragement by the midwife after her second miscarriage, paid for private care and for private tests and all the rest, to learn that taking baby aspirin would increase her chance of keeping the next little one. A baby aspirin once a day saw her have a beautiful baby girl. There could well have been another miscarriage had she not been able to seek private advice. When it comes to that example of how that lady dealt with a miscarriage and then had a child, I wonder whether the necessary advice is there in the system and throughout the process. I have said it before and I shall say it again: three miscarriages but no investigation is too much. I sincerely urge change in the NHS procedure. Perhaps the Minister will be able to respond to that point or give me some idea of where we are.

This debate cannot solve the issue of baby loss and grief, but it can validate the fact that a miscarriage was a loss. It happened and should be remembered, and we as a nation should mourn. The fact that a death certificate cannot be issued until 24 weeks must be reviewed. I find that quite incredible. It does not mean that it is not widely understood that someone has suffered through a death. And it is not simply the mother who suffers, but the father and the would-be grandparents, too. The hon. Member for Eddisbury referred to it, and although the hon. Member for Colchester has not spoken today, I remember his previous contributions. The wider family suffer as well. It is like throwing a stone into a pond: the ripples go right to the edge—they touch everyone in the family circle and all the friends. Everyone should remember that.

We must do more to recognise and support those who suffer from a miscarriage. A pamphlet in a cold, sterile procedure room is not enough. I read a little quote that touched my heart. This lady said:

“I carried you for every second of your life—and I will love you for every second of mine…Let sweet Jesus hold you until mummy and daddy can hold you”—[Interruption.]