Bereaved parents falling through the gaps in mental health care

A report published today reveals that 60% of bereaved parents felt they needed specialist psychological support for their mental health but were not able to access it on the NHS.

9 October 2019

More than 80% NHS commissioners across the UK do not offer psychological support for parents who experience a psychiatric illness after pregnancy loss or the death of their baby, according to a report published today by the Baby Loss Awareness Week Alliance.

Thousands of parents experience pregnancy or baby loss every year. Not all of them will develop a psychiatric illness after their loss but research shows that women who have experienced stillbirth, miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy are at higher risk of PTSD, anxiety, and depression, than those who haven’t.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Bereaved parents falling through the gaps in mental health care reveals that 60% of bereaved parents felt they needed specialist psychological support for their mental health but were not able to access it on the NHS.

According to the report, bereaved parents who were able to get psychological support often had to attend clinics where they were surrounded by families with live babies.

“After my baby died, I felt I needed psychological support. I was referred and the support took place in the neonatal ward of the hospital where I gave birth to my dead baby. I had to sit in a waiting room each week while other people's babies were wheeled past me. The psychiatrist who saw me informed me that my thoughts, my grief were unhelpful and wrong and if I just ‘thought differently’ I'd feel better.”

Overall, parents reported waiting too long for support, particularly when referred by their GP. Lack of accessible NHS services led some parents to seek private care, which not everyone can afford.

Jane Brewin, CEO at Tommy's said: “Baby loss is neither inevitable, nor is it unpreventable. Too many families continue to experience the devastation of miscarriage, stillbirth and neonatal death and Tommy’s is committed to changing these statistics.

"We are working in partnership, alongside Sands, in the Pregnancy & Baby Charities Network to reduce the number of babies who die during pregnancy, birth or in the early weeks of life; to reduce morbidity in new-born babies and improve care for these babies and their parents; and to improve care throughout the path to parenthood - before, during and after pregnancy and after baby loss.

"We welcome this focus on improving access to high-quality psychological support for families who have lost a baby during pregnancy or after birth and will be supporting the campaign during this year’s Baby Loss Awareness Week.”

The Baby Loss Awareness Week Alliance made up of 90 charities, including Tommy’s, is now urging Government ensure that anyone who needs specialist psychological support following pregnancy loss or the death of a baby can access it, free on the NHS, wherever and whenever they need. Further training for GPs in understanding and assessing the risk of bereaved parents developing a psychiatric illness has also been recommended.

More about Baby Loss Awareness Week

Baby Loss Awareness Week (9-15 October) is an opportunity for anyone affected by pregnancy or baby loss and their families and friends, to unite to commemorate their babies’ lives. The week helps to raise awareness of how pregnancy and baby loss affects thousands of families each year across the UK.

Throughout the Week, landmark buildings across the UK will be lit up pink and blue – the colours of Baby Loss Awareness Week. The Week culminates in a global #WaveOfLight when candles will be lit across the world to remember all those babies who have died.

Anyone can join a digital Wave of Light from 7pm on 15 October by posting a photo of their candle to Facebook, Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #WaveOfLight.

To get involved, visit the Tommy’s Baby Loss Awareness Week Hub and follow #BLAW2019 on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.


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