Bereaved parents are falling through the gaps in mental health care

Posted on October 08, 2019

New research from the Baby Loss Alliance has found that bereaved parents cannot access specialist mental health support after pregnancy or baby loss in nearly nine out of ten areas of the UK. This is despite evidence that parents can develop serious mental health conditions as a result of their loss.

The Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Bereaved parents falling through the gaps in mental health care report has found:

  • Only 16 per cent of parents said they were able to access the psychological support they needed through the NHS – leading some to self-fund their own private care, which not everyone can afford.
  • More than 60 per cent of parents reported that they kept their feelings of isolation, depression and suicidal thoughts to themselves.

This Baby Loss Awareness Week (9 -15 October) Bliss, along with 90 other Baby Loss Alliance members led by Sands, is calling on the Government and the NHS to make sure that specialist psychological support services are available to every parent who needs it following pregnancy or baby loss. These services must be appropriate to the needs of bereaved parents, free of charge and available wherever and whenever they need it.

Thousands of parents experience pregnancy or baby loss every year. It is estimated that one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage, one in eighty are ectopic and 15 babies are stillborn or die shortly after birth every day in the UK.

While not every bereaved parent will experience mental health difficulties, it is important that services are readily available for those that do. Evidence shows that parents whose babies are born needing neonatal care are more likely to have mental health difficulties compared to the general population, and 80% of parents responding to a Bliss survey said they felt a neonatal experience negatively affected their mental health. The impact of this experience may be more acute for parents whose baby sadly dies.

Later today, MPs will be marking Baby Loss Awareness Week in Parliament with a debate to discuss issues relating to pregnancy and baby loss. You can help us encourage your MP to go along and make the case for better provision of specialist psychological support services by tweeting your MP now!

Justin Irwin, Chief Executive of Bliss said: ‘’Today’s findings are a timely reminder that despite recent improvements in the quality and consistency of immediate bereavement care, there is still a great deal of work to do to ensure parents and families affected by pregnancy and baby loss receive all the support they need.

‘‘’While grief is a natural response to bereavement, some bereaved parents will go on to develop significant mental health conditions which require specialist support. Recently, there has been strong political support for improving mental health outcomes for mums and their partners, both during pregnancy and after childbirth.

‘’However, the needs of bereaved families have not been taken into account –resulting in current services failing to support those who have experienced the devastating loss of their baby. There is an opportunity for the Government and NHS to rectify this and improve the availability and accessibility of these vital services.’’

References

Tommy’s - https://www.tommys.org/our-organisation/our-research/research-miscarriage

Ectopic Pregnancy Trust - https://ectopic.org.uk/

Sands - https://www.sands.org.uk/why-15-babies-day