82% of families blame themselves when they lose a baby

Tommy’s and Petals are working together to challenge the stigma of pregnancy and baby loss.

When we ran a survey last year for our Tell Me Why campaign, we found that 82% of families blamed themselves when they lost a baby. These feelings of guilt and shame fed into the stigma of loss and led to increased isolation which compounded grief.  

The outpouring of reaction to Chrissy Teigen and John Legend’s devastating news about the death of their baby Jack, once again shows us just why we need to work so much harder to break the silence around pregnancy and baby loss.  

That’s why we're working with Petals to challenge the stigma and provide a safe space for families to deal with loss.

Over two thirds of the parents who come to Petals have clinically defined mental health issues. With specialist counselling from Petals, this decreases to less than 10%.

We know that the loss of a much-wanted baby can lead to long-term mental health issues and even post traumatic stress disorder. This is made worse when families feel they cannot grieve in the way which feels right for them.

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“After pregnancy or baby loss, it is common for parents to feel as though they have in some way failed their child, as well as their family, friends and even each other. Sharing their painful reality is a way of reaching out, asking for support and acceptance from those around them - it takes courage to tell a world that is anticipating the joy of new life, that the tragedy of death is what they have instead.

So if this news is ignored, or criticised, parents can be left with feeling ashamed or guilty, damaging their mental health and causing them to withdraw and isolate from their world. Ultimately, this prevents many parents from grieving in a way that is healthy, and will likely delay their recovery process significantly.“If we want to support parents facing the heartbreak of pregnancy and baby loss we need to be able to set aside any discomfort we may be feeling and instead show empathy, support and understanding.”

— Alyx Elliott, Director of Strategy at Petal
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“We need more research and investment in reproductive health and mental health support after pregnancy and baby loss. Stillbirth, miscarriage, premature birth and Termination for Medical Reasons, in contrast to most other medical conditions, are linked to deep feelings of guilt and failure, especially in women. The lack of medical explanation for pregnancy complications and loss underpins this self-blame which is made worse when families are left to grieve without adequate support.”

— Our Chief Executive Jane Brewin
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Whilst we waited a week to share on social media the death of Leo, I was eager to do it. I refused to accept that people in the world were allowed the luxury of thinking of Leo alive, if I, his mother wasn’t able to anymore. If he was dead for me, he had to be dead for everyone. It also gave us the chance to control the narrative, to use the language that we felt suitable at that time, to control when the news broke. I think this is fair for us all - especially those with a bigger (global) circle. And also - we share. It’s the modern world. To share. Doing so helps the sharer and helps the reader. It raises awareness, it releases pain, it makes others feel less alone. It is too much to hold. You need to give some of it away. Your baby may have died, but you still have pride for them.

— Jess, from The Legacy of Leo

How you can help

If we’re to achieve change, we need your help. Pregnancy loss is not ‘just one of those things’. Parents should be able to grieve in whichever way they want and be given adequate support to process their trauma.

  • Talk about your experience of the issues above. Your influence and reach will generate conversation and help break down well-meant but harmful and widespread views like ‘it wasn’t meant to be’.
  • In your conversations highlight the need for more pregnancy research and mental health support.