Parents urged to share their experience of losing a baby to mark anniversary

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A charity is looking for parents, family and friends affected by the death of a baby who are willing to share their stories and experience of loss no matter how long ago it happened.

Sands (stillbirth and neonatal death charity) is commemorating its 40th anniversary this year and wants to hear as many first hand experiences as possible.

These stories are powerful and will help to raise awareness of the issues surrounding stillbirth and neonatal death, and also help other bereaved parents to understand they are not alone.

Forty years ago, two bereaved mothers found there was no support available for parents whose babies had died.

After giving birth to their stillborn babies in the mid-1970s, Bel Mooney, a journalist wrote an article for The Guardian describing her experience and Hazelanne Lewis, a psychiatric social worker, wrote to national newspapers asking bereaved parents to contact her to share their stories.

The avalanche of replies from all over the UK revealed the vast, unrecognised need for support and advice for bereaved parents and their families upon the death of their baby. As a result Sands was formed in 1978.

At that time in the UK, most parents were not allowed to see, hold or bury their babies. No photographs were taken and they could not put their baby’s name on the stillbirth certificate.

Hazelanne Lewis said: “When I gave birth to my stillborn baby in 1975 things were very different than they are today.

“My baby was taken away from me almost instantly, delivered with nurses leaning over me and they took him out of the room so I couldn’t see him. The midwives made no eye contact and they instructed my husband not to discuss our baby with me.

“My experience spurred me on to reach out to other bereaved parents who had been through the same ordeal and we formed a support group which became Sands.

“Thankfully bereavement care has changed for the better since the 1970s and we have seen the number of baby deaths reduced, but more research work needs to be carried out to reduce the number of deaths even further.

“I know Sands would be pleased to hear from bereaved parents, so please do get in contact with them and share your story if you feel able.”

This year, the 40th anniversary recognises the support of volunteers, befrienders, fund-raisers, healthcare professionals (including midwives) for their contributions.

Despite many accomplishments over the years more work needs to be done to reduce the number of babies dying even further.

The anniversary also acknowledges Sands continuous efforts to be the voice of bereaved parents, the charity’s impact on the lives of many bereaved parents, improvements in bereavement care and funding vital research.

Parents who would like to share their story can call Sands on 0203 897 3449, email: media@sands.org.uk or send a letter to: Lee Armitt, Sands (stillbirth and neonatal death charity), Victoria Charity Centre, 11 Belgrave Road, London, SW1V 1RB.

For information on Sands’ 40th anniversary visit: www.sands.org.uk/about-sands/40th-anniversary