Advising with empathy and experience

Better support for women who lose babies before 24 weeks announced


Women who lose babies during pregnancy have been promised better support, including improvements in how remains are collected and stored, following an independent review of the care in England.

The government is also to introduce a voluntary certificate for parents who lose their baby before 24 weeks.

In the past, women have been told to retrieve baby-loss remains from toilets and store them in home fridges.

As part of new measures focusing on women's health, the NHS website will also be updated to include more content on hormone replacement therapy and to allow people to search for the local availability of in vitro fertilisation treatment (IVF).

There are around 500 miscarriages a day in the UK, defined as a loss of a pregnancy before 24 weeks. For many women this happens at home, with little support or pain relief.

While babies born after 24 weeks gestation are officially recorded as stillbirths, there is currently no formal way to mark losses before this time.

The government says a voluntary certificate will be made available and, while it will not be a legal document, it will help "provide comfort and help parents validate their loss."

Other commitments include exploring how women who have lost babies can get 24/7 access to care; how those suffering multiple miscarriages receive treatment and testing and developing “a bespoke holder" for collecting and storing remains with dignity.      

Among other recommendations are education in schools on the symptoms of all types of baby loss and where to seek help; routine offers of mental health support for women and partners and help in understanding how the loss occurred with appointments and advice for future pregnancies.

The review also recommended that private spaces in hospitals for patients experiencing baby loss and further research on the increased risk for women from Black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds and those from more deprived areas.

It said that early loss was commonly viewed as a "clinical episode" with some healthcare professionals not taking individuals' emotional and physical care seriously.

The review’s co-lead, Zoe Clark-Coates, who is also a baby loss charity founder, said that after losing five babies herself she saw that proper support did not exist.

She said: "I want to see people stopping having to hit Google to find out 'what care should I be receiving, where should I be going for support' - this support should be easily available to every single person."

An English tutor from Wythenshawe, Jessica Wharton, 28, had two early pregnancy losses last year.

She says the lack of acknowledgement of her losses left her heartbroken. She said: "Apart from us as a couple and our friends and family, no-one really acknowledged our loss.

"When I asked the hospital for something to acknowledge them, they said they couldn't do that. We felt the baby was part of us and we had tried for a long time. This was still our child."

She said her experiences would have been improved by staff being more empathetic, more available to listen to her and to tell her what to expect.

Women’s health minister, Maria Caulfield, said: "We will keep working and investing so girls and women across the country can benefit from the world-class healthcare they deserve."

She told Sky News that the government wanted to end the "three miscarriage rule" under which women are referred for help and advice only after they have lost three babies during pregnancy.