Shift in attitude needed towards grieving parents

MORE than 170 precious little Ipswich souls lost their lives in just 12 months.

As grieving mums and dads cradle their babies for the last time, they are often overwhelmed by feelings of guilt and inadequacy - a result of out-of-date attitudes about miscarriage and stillbirths.

APN research has revealed 147 babies died as a result of miscarriage and 28 babies were stillborn at the city's public hospital last financial year.

The Queensland Health Department figures for the 2013-14 financial year were down on the previous reporting period, when 208 babies lost their lives.

Every year, about 106,000 Australian families experience reproductive loss.

Across the nation, about 103,000 deaths occur during early pregnancy, 2250 babies are stillborn and 750 die in the first 28 days after birth.

Infant-mortality experts say the community and health professionals need to reconsider how they talk to grieving parents.

Maternity care researcher Yvette Miller said many women she surveyed were traumatised when doctors, nurses and midwives used medical language to describe how and why babies had died.

"Mostly they said the professionals were kind and sensitive but ... there were particular things people did that made it more difficult for them," the Queensland University of Technology associate professor said.

"Some of these included applying medical conventions to describe the loss rather than seeing it from the women's perspective, which is the loss of this prospective baby, this member of their family.

"They used language that was very medical and didn't actually fit with their experience and that made them quite confused as well.

"For example, 'all I remember the doctor saying to us is it is not compatible with life'. What does that mean to the parent?"

Queensland Maternal and Perinatal Quality Council member David Ellwood said a shift in attitudes was needed.

"People who have experienced miscarriage get quite offended that it's not necessarily considered to be as serious a loss of a baby as a stillbirth is," the Griffith University obstetrics and gynaecology professor said.

"People do recover and move on, but I think there has been a lack of appreciation until fairly recently about how much of an impact (prenatal loss and stillbirth) has and how long term it is."

Mr Ellwood said governments should provide more support for grieving mums and dads.

Lyndy Bowden, who heads Australia's key support group for parents who have lost a child during or straight after pregnancy, believes that people need to reconsider their choice of words when speaking to bereaved families.

"People are really trying to do the best they can, but offering up comments like 'it's okay, you'll have another one' or 'this wasn't meant to be' can be really hurtful," the Sands Australia National Council chairwoman said.

"When you lose a baby you have your own guilt ... without people saying this."

People affected by the loss of a baby can contact Sands Australia on 1300 072 637 or visit


Please be kind to yourself

SANDS Australia offers these tips to help bereaved mums cope on Mother's Day:

  • It's okay to grieve. You may feel a range of emotions, from sadness, anger and guilt to feeling at peace.
  • This is normal. Give yourself time and space to feel whatever you are feeling. Go for a walk, look at pictures of your baby - do whatever makes you happy.
  • Lean on family and friends who understand. Talk about your baby - you may find hearing your baby's name can be soothing.
  • Honour your baby. Give a donation, light a candle or plant a tree. Doing something to honour your baby's memory can be comforting.
  • Write a letter. Many mums find that writing a letter to their baby is a powerful way to express and work through their feelings
  • Speak to a Sands parent supporter.

Talking to someone who can relate to you can be very helpful. All parent supporters have been through pregnancy loss or have experienced newborn death themselves.


Topics:  grieving grieving parents infant mortality miscarriage stillbirth

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