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UK Government launches baby loss certificates to recognise grief of parents

The UK Government has launched a new scheme to provide baby loss certificates for parents who have experienced pregnancy loss before 24 weeks.

The press release announcing the introduction of the scheme says that it is “designed to formally recognise the devastating loss of a baby during pregnancy”.

From 22 February, parents who have experienced the loss of a baby before 24 weeks gestation after 1 September 2018 will be able to apply for a certificate. Either parent may make an application, but they must be over 16 years of age and have been living in England at the time of the loss.

The scheme comes in response to the Pregnancy Loss Review published last year and as part of the women’s health priorities for 2024.

‘This piece of paper proves our babies existed’

The Minister for the Women’s Health Strategy, Maria Caulfield, said “We have listened to parents who have gone through what can be an unbelievably painful experience of losing a baby, and that is why today we are introducing baby loss certificates to recognise their loss, as part of our wider long-term plan for women’s health in our country, the Women’s Health Strategy”.

“I would like to thank the tireless work of campaigners and charities for their work in supporting this agenda and making the certificates a reality”.

Zoe Clark-Coates, founder and CEO of the Mariposa Trust and co-chair and author of the Pregnancy Loss Review, said “I’m thrilled that from today millions of families will finally get the formal acknowledgement that their baby existed and I hope this will help their grieving process”.

Samantha Collinge, Bereavement Lead Midwife at George Eliot Hospital NHS Trust and co-chair of the Pregnancy Loss Review said “Miscarriage and other types of pre-24 weeks baby loss is often minimised and treated as a ‘clinical event’ or ‘just one of those things’ rather than the loss of a baby and sadly the emotional impact of the loss is often disregarded”.

She went on to say “Zoe and I hope that the introduction of a national certificate of baby loss will give bereaved parents the official recognition that their babies did exist and that their babies’ lives, however brief, really do matter”.

Pregnancy Loss Review highlights pain and challenges of miscarriage

According to the Independent, around 14 babies die before, during or soon after birth in the UK every day, but campaigners have long warned the issue is routinely ignored by society and remains a taboo.

Speaking on behalf of the Lily Mae Foundation, which supports families impacted by a baby’s death, Amy Jackson said they were pleased “it has finally been recognised that a child born before 24 weeks deserves the acknowledgement that any other human being receives”.

She added “To many of our families who have sadly lost a baby before 24 weeks, this small gesture will mean the world, and provide recognition that their precious baby existed”.

“To discriminate between gestations only serves to belittle a loss before 24 weeks and we at the Lily Mae Foundation truly believe that a loss is devastating no matter what the gestation. The loss of an entire lifetime of hopes and dreams”.

In the past, tragic stories have been shared of women who have been told to retrieve the remains of their baby from the toilet or to store them in the fridge. The Government has now committed to a review of guidance on the sensitive handling of remains so that women and families are not asked to treat the remains of any babies they have lost as “waste products“. 

Other recommendations include allowing women to receive treatment if they experience recurrent miscarriages, increasing funding for bereavement support related to baby loss, granting bereavement leave for staff who experience baby loss before 24 weeks, and improving information about baby loss in healthcare settings. 

Right To Life UK spokesperson, Catherine Robinson, said “The new Government scheme is a step in the right direction as it recognises the loss suffered when an unborn baby dies, regardless of the gestation of the child. It is good that the voices of parents who have been through the agony of miscarriage are now being heard”.

“Additionally, much of the discussion around baby loss is linked to the grief of the parents, and these certificates are being presented as recognition of this grief specifically. The life of every child in the womb matters, whether or not they were wanted. Every aborted child was the loss of a human life, whether or not there is a certificate to recognise it”.

“While we welcome the introduction of the baby loss certificate scheme, it highlights the dissonance between recognising that a baby exists before 24 weeks, and allowing a baby of the same age to be aborted”. 

Dear reader,

You may be surprised to learn that our 24-week abortion time limit is out of line with the majority of European Union countries, where the most common time limit for abortion on demand or on broad social grounds is 12 weeks gestation.

The latest guidance from the British Association of Perinatal Medicine enables doctors to intervene to save premature babies from 22 weeks. The latest research indicates that a significant number of babies born at 22 weeks gestation can survive outside the womb, and this number increases with proactive perinatal care.

This leaves a real contradiction in British law. In one room of a hospital, doctors could be working to save a baby born alive at 23 weeks whilst, in another room of that same hospital, a doctor could perform an abortion that would end the life of a baby at the same age.

The majority of the British population support reducing the time limit. Polling has shown that 70% of British women favour a reduction in the time limit from 24 weeks to 20 weeks or below.

Please click the button below to sign the petition to the Prime Minister, asking him to do everything in his power to reduce the abortion time limit.