Parents need better psychological support when a baby dies

Too many parents affected by pregnancy or baby loss are currently not able to access the psychological support that they need, according to a new report published to coincide with Baby Loss Awareness Week (9 - 15 October).

In one survey, 60% of parents who experienced pregnancy or baby loss told charity Sands that they would have liked specialist psychological support for their mental health, but were not able to access it on the NHS.

Among the thousands of parents who experience pregnancy or baby loss every year, a significant number may experience a psychiatric illness that requires specialist support, triggered by intense grief and trauma. The report, Out of Sight, Out of Mind, by the charity Sands, sets out new research that shows that too often this support is unavailable, inaccessible or inappropriate. Freedom of Information requests found that more than eight out of ten commissioners across the UK do not commission specialist therapies to support this group, with a more general service being more common. Those who sought support through their GP often experienced long waiting lists. As a result, bereaved parents can fall through the gaps. Not being able to access support can affect all aspects of people’s lives including future pregnancies, their personal relationships, their physical health and their employment.

Rainbow Trust Director of Care, Anne Harris, said:

“While not all parents will require a high level of psychological support, we know that many mothers and fathers can struggle to manage their feelings of grief and loss when a baby dies. As a supporter of Baby Loss Awareness Week, Rainbow Trust Children’s Charity backs the call for governments across the UK to take action to ensure that all parents in this situation who need specialist psychological support can access it. This support should be at a time and place that is right for them, free of charge, wherever they live.”

More than 228 families with a seriously ill baby started to receive emotional and practical support from Rainbow Trust’s specialist Neonatal Support Workers and Family Support Workers in 2018. The prevalence of life-threatening and terminal conditions among babies is increasing as a result of more seriously ill babies surviving birth, and more babies living longer with complex conditions, owing to advances in medical technology.

Baby Loss Awareness Week is an annual awareness week backed by more than 60 organisations, and culminating in a Wave of Light at 7pm on Tuesday 15 October.

Read the report here.