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Home » Latest News » Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month; where are we now?

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month; where are we now?

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month; where are we now?

On Tuesday 15th October 2019 bereaved parents will share the lighting of a candle to remember their lost little one and we support this show of remembrance.

October is pregnancy and infant loss awareness month, since last year we have seen some really positive steps forward from the various infant loss campaigns across the UK. There has been a specific drive for recognition of fathers in the grieving process, a roll-out of Strep B testing trials is fantastic news (fingers crossed this gets rolled out to the rest of the UK soon), and there have also been rumblings of a change to the rules surrounding inquests and stillborn babies. We have also seen troubling statistics and news stories painting a picture of understaffed maternity units and women being let down by an over-subscribed service.
 
Strep-B Testing
 
Nottingham University are currently undertaking trials into testing all pregnant women for Strep B, this is something that has been standard practice in other countries for many years – in Germany universal testing has been standard practice since 2008. Strep B is the most common cause of life-threatening illness in new-born babies and with a swab it is easy to detect and treat a mother who carries the infection. 
 
Campaigners are calling for all women to be tested for Group B Streptococcus when they are readying for labour to prevent any more avoidable infant deaths. Group B Streptococcus infections can develop into pneumonia, sepsis or meningitis if it is not identified and treated quickly in infants. Preterm babies are at particular risk of developing serious complications, so too are babies whose mothers had a temperature during labour, or a water break pre-labour.
 
Medical negligence solicitor Nicola Evans explains why these changes are so important:
 
“There is no excuse for scrimping on Strep B testing; babies are being seriously harmed by the lack of routine testing, and it is my hope that in the coming years universal testing will be adopted across the whole of the UK. A change that is simply way overdue.”
 
Inquest Representation
 
There is currently a debate ongoing about whether or not stillborn babies should be entitled to inquests. By giving a stillborn baby an inquest the courts would be essentially recognising the stillborn foetus as a person with individual rights, while at the moment they are legally considered to be a part of the mother. British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) said that the change "risks fundamentally undermining the uncontested legal understanding that a stillborn child remains part of the mother."
 
"This, in turn, risks endangering the legal understanding of women's rights to her own body during pregnancy and birth — conferring a degree of foetal personhood which can only be attained by removing fundamental, long-standing rights from women."
 
Campaigns against allowing foetuses personal rights have been ongoing for generations; it is this that allows women the right to have abortions and to put their own safety ahead of that of an unborn baby – the courts are being asked to reconsider where to draw that line.
 
Partner at Bridge McFarland LLP Ian Sprakes talks about his experiences with infant loss cases “It’s always tough when you are looking at cases where young babies have passed away, sadly we see a lot of them. It’s not a job we take lightly, and everything we do is in the interest of improving healthcare services and supporting the families who have been harmed by poor standards of care. 
 
“From a purely medical perspective, and in the interest of preventing more cases of stillborn babies in the future, I do think some sort of enhanced investigation into the circumstances surrounding stillbirths would be prudent, whether that would be a full inquest or not is another question entirely. I think that, as a man, I would be very reluctant to give an opinion on the rights of woman vs the rights of an unborn baby and it is entirely correct that such a complicated decision be made by the courts”. 
 
Poor Standards of Maternity Care
 
Raising awareness during October not only helps those that have suffered loss, but also goes some way to promote steps that could be taken to prevent infant loss. There are approximately 665,000 babies born in England each year, and around 3,000 of these are stillbirths, with an estimated one in every 200 babies stillborn. Warnings from NHS England in 2018 suggested that as many as 600 of those stillborn babies could have been saved had the maternity hospitals properly monitored the pregnancy. A new national guidance called the ‘Saving Babies Lives Care Bundle’ has shown positive results with stillbirths being reduced by a fifth in units where it has been implemented. 
 
A study carried out by charity ‘Tommy’s’ suggests that 50% of women who had a stillbirth experienced noticeable reduction in movements of baby beforehand – that is why campaigns like ‘count the kicks’ are important.
 
The ONS have reported that, though the UK met the global target on infant mortality some 40 years ago, the rate of improvement has slowed compared with other EU countries, which are making faster progress.
 
Nicola Evans, Senior Solicitor in our Clinical Negligence Team says “the reality is, no parent wants to hear that the provision of alternative or better healthcare could have saved their precious baby but equally they want to have answers as to why this has happened to them and they want to know the truth.  As a firm with great experience of claims of this nature we understand how sensitive they are and what level of care a family require when investigating such matters.”
 
Infant loss – Wave of Light
 
On Tuesday 15th October 2019 bereaved parents will share the lighting of a candle to remember their lost little one and we support this show of remembrance.    
 
Another area that is receiving far more focus is the prevalence of baby loss – it is estimated that 1 in 4 pregnancies will end in loss (whether that is very early into the pregnancy, or later on).
 
Lorraine Taylor, Partner and head of the clinical negligence team in Hull, and her team are accredited members of the Foundation for Infant Loss, demonstrating their commitment to ensuring clients who have suffered a loss are given the appropriate levels of support.
 
“Raising awareness in October is so important because chances are we are all closely connected to someone who has suffered a loss without realising it. For whatever reason it isn’t something that is often talked about openly, and that can be incredibly isolating to the families going through this. 
 
“By speaking up and reaching out to friends and family for support in these legitimately upsetting circumstances more and more  families are coming to realise that they are not alone in this grief, and that they do not have to go through it without support.”