‘I had just given birth to a baby, I didn’t miscarry him’

This week’s baby loss storyline on Coronation Street has sparked debate about how we should refer to babies lost before 24 weeks.

Kym Marsh on This Morning

Tommy's news, 13/01/2017

Earlier this week, Coronation Street ran the first episode in a storyline that sees Kym Marsh’s character Michelle and her husband Steve McDonald, played by Simon Gregson, lose their baby at 23 weeks.

The storyline is particularly poignant as both actors have experienced losses of their own.

Kym lost her baby boy Archie at 21 weeks in 2009 and Simon has revealed that he and his wife, Emma, have suffered 11 miscarriages, the first of which was at 21+4 weeks.

The episode has got people talking about the most appropriate and sensitive word to use to describe a late loss such as these.

In technical terms, a baby lost between 14 to 24 weeks of pregnancy is classed as a late miscarriage. Many women prefer to use the stillbirth, however, as losing a baby at this stage still requires you to give birth.

In last night’s episode, Michelle and Steve were told that because their baby was born before 24 weeks, he will not be given a birth certificate.

Kym compared this to her own experience and said how much of a problem she had with the term late miscarriage.

‘Calling my son a late miscarriage was one of the things that really got to me because I had just given birth to a baby, I didn't miscarry him. When I'm not here anymore, nobody will know that my baby existed, and that is upsetting for a lot of women I think.’

One woman said that the term late miscarriage doesn’t do justice to what you go through when you lose a baby shortly before 24 weeks.

Another women said that just because you have not had the full 24 weeks of dreaming about your baby, it doesn’t make them any less loved or wanted.

Professor Andy Shennan, Clinical Director of Tommy’s Preterm Surveillance Clinic, said that in terms of the women’s experience, very little actually differs from loss at 23 weeks gestation to loss at 24 weeks.

‘Women's experience of pregnancy loss is little affected by whether the baby was big enough to survive or not. It is not appropriate to treat the personal impact of a baby loss at 22 weeks differently from say, 24 weeks. Clinical care may be different, and therefore medical terms may have to reflect that to assist with the care. The baby may not be resuscitated below 23 weeks for example. However, from the women's perspective there is little difference in what is often a shocking experience, and everyone should be sensitive to this.’

The distinction between late miscarriage and stillbirth is also something that many mothers are not aware of before finding themselves in this position.

For one mother, having not been made aware of the distinction meant the difference between having her baby’s birth officially registered or not.

‘My baby girl had Edwards syndrome and I made a tough decision not to proceed but a tiny part of me wishes I’d waited a few weeks to get that death certificate and taken some maternity leave rather than being signed off sick. Not that it would’ve made any difference to what was the matter with my baby, by officially she wouldn’t existed.’

At Tommy’s, we know just how devastating the loss of a baby can be and we believe that if it gives you comfort to use the word stillbirth as opposed to miscarriage when describing your loss then you should.

Your baby and your pregnancy are your own; no one can tell you how you should talk about and remember your baby. You have the right to refer to your baby however you chose.

If you want to read more about the Coronation Street storyline and the social media reaction it has received you can read our article here.

Read more about this storyline

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