Call for improved mental health support for bereaved parents

For the majority of women, giving birth is the most cherished moment of their life. There is no better feeling in the world than being presented with your healthy new-born.

Unfortunately though, the experience of bringing a child into the world is not a joyous one for everybody, and some new parents suffer a lot of heartache due to their babies being still born or born very sick.

A few years back Neonatal care across North Wales was an area of great concern, with parents faced with the prospect of very sick and premature babies being transported to Arrowe Park Hospital in Wirral.

Fortunately this was rectified with the opening of the £18m neonatal intensive care unit at Glan Clwyd Hospital in 2017, providing care for babies as young as 26 weeks.

Our babies deserve the highest standard of health care available and the very best start in life and this facility helps to deliver just that. We are very fortunate to now have this high level of care on our doorstep and many families will be forever grateful for the services and care it provides.

Sadly though, even first-rate care can not always prevent baby loss and thousands of parents every year suffer this tragic outcome. It is estimated that: 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage; 1 in 80 are ectopic and 15 babies are stillborn or die shortly after birth every day in the UK.

To coincide with Baby Loss Awareness Week (October 9-15) this year, the Baby Loss Alliance have published the ‘Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind: parents falling through the gaps in mental health care’ report, which outlines its findings that 60% of bereaved parents felt they needed specialist psychological support for their mental health, but were unable to access it on the NHS.

Grief is a natural response to this particularly isolating bereavement. Some people carry this with them for the rest of their lives but do not develop a mental health problem. However, many bereaved parents will go on to experience psychiatric illnesses that require specialist support, triggered by intense grief and the trauma of their experience. Information gathered by the Baby Loss Awareness Alliance shows that there is a clear need for specialist psychological support for this group.

While there have been welcome improvements in the care directly provided to parents by the NHS following the death of their baby, the report states that this now needs to extend to better support for parents’ mental health in the weeks, months and years following this most tragic and traumatic of experiences.

It is imperative that Governments across the UK take the opportunity to come together and act now to address this problem, and I call on those in power in Wales take action to ensure that all parents who experience pregnancy and baby loss and need specialist psychological support can access it, at a time and place that is right for them, free of charge, wherever they live.

The negative impact individuals experience if they do not get the right support is vast. It affects all aspects of people’s lives including future pregnancies, personal relationships, physical health and employment. The repercussions are felt across wider society, costing the NHS more in the long run. We can not afford not to take action!