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Scotland launches memorial book for babies who died before 24 weeks gestation

The Scottish Government is launching a memorial book for parents who have experienced baby loss before 24 weeks gestation.

The scheme was one of Nicola Sturgeon’s last announcements before her resignation last month, and, from this summer, will allow parents to request a commemorative certificate in recognition of their lost son or daughter.

A counsellor who supports bereaved parents in Scotland, Ailsa Meldrum, experienced pregnancy loss 22 years ago when she lost her baby in an ectopic pregnancy and approves of the new scheme.

“[I]t was very traumatic, I was unwell for about a year afterwards – I didn’t cope”, she explained.

Ailsa and her husband Neil live in Kirknewton, West Lothian. She said the new scheme will ensure that babies who die before 24 weeks “won’t be forgotten” and that the scheme will help with the grieving process.

“When the news came out I was delighted for all the families. I definitely want [my] baby in the book. That was my first pregnancy, I did go on to have two other children and that’s lovely, but that baby is still missed”.

“For the first time ever I feel like it has given me permission to speak about it and not feel like it was an invisible loss”, she added

“One of my biggest fears for so many years is when I am no longer here there is absolutely no record that Findlay was here”.

Another woman, Lynne McMillan, and her husband, Gavin, lost their son, Findlay, at 21 and a half weeks in 2013. She told BBC Scotland that she would be applying to have her son included in the memorial book.

She said “We had passed the halfway mark and we started thinking about the future so for that to be ripped away from you was just devastating. One of my biggest fears for so many years is when I am no longer here there is absolutely no record that Findlay was here”.

“He was part of me, he will always be part of me – just to have him formally recognised is amazing”.

A similar scheme was launched in England last year when the Government announced that it would be introducing pregnancy loss certificates for women who lose their babies before 24 weeks gestation. Previously, if a woman lost her baby before 24 weeks, it was registered as a miscarriage. Only if she lost her baby after 24 weeks gestation was the death recorded as a stillbirth.

Campaigners in Wales are fighting for something similar.

Right To Life UK spokesperson Catherine Robinson said “Pregnancy loss certificates or memorials are a good thing. They acknowledge that these babies’ lives mattered. Pregnancy loss at any stage of pregnancy for any reason is a tragedy. Every baby who dies, whether in the womb or after birth, is someone’s son or daughter and ought to be recognised as having existed and having mattered”.

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