Baby loss certificates won’t help bereaved parents like me

The UK Government announced the policy this week.

Baby loss certificates won’t help bereaved parents like me
Premature baby day concept. Tiny socks
1 in 4 people will experience a miscarriage before three months (Image: Getty Images)

Emma Garner has tragically experienced seven baby losses. But the 38-year-old, from Manchester, questions whether a new scheme to honour them is too little too late for bereaved parents.

Though people in England who lose a baby before 24 weeks will now be eligible to file for a baby loss certificate in recognition of their grief, there are some terms and conditions to the new government scheme.

Notably, there’s a time limit on accepting applications – it’s not possible for families who experienced loss before 1 September 2018 to file.

Emma believes that a baby loss certificate would have comforted her through her intense loss, describing how, without one, she was left with ‘nothing other than a sick note for two weeks’.

‘I’ve actually forgotten the dates of some of the miscarriages, so it would be nice to have something to look back to,’ she tells Metro.co.uk.

But four of her miscarriages were before 2018.

‘Does this mean they matter less? Should I be more ‘over them’?’ she asks.

Though she is eligible to apply for certificates for the losses she experienced after 2018, she won’t be requesting any.

‘At the time, I’d have liked this…but it needed to be something that happened in the moment.’

Emma has experienced seven miscarriages (Image: Supplied)
Emma has experienced seven miscarriages (Image: Supplied)

Previously, babies who were born still after 24 weeks of pregnancy were officially registered as stillbirths – and a certificate issued to confirm their death.

However, no policy has been in place for those babies who are lost before that stage, leaving countless parents without official documentation of their child.

According to Tommy’s, the UK’s largest pregnancy and baby loss charity, one in four people will experience a miscarriage in the first three months.

Emma’s first loss came in 2014. She got pregnant and an 8-week scan showed that the baby was healthy. However, just two weeks later the baby had no heartbeat and had died, with Emma going into surgery to reduce her chances of infection.

A few months after this experience, Emma got pregnant again. But her 12-week scan sadly revealed that her second baby had died.

Emma first got pregnant in 2014 (Image: Supplied)
Emma first got pregnant in 2014 (Image: Supplied)

‘As it had already been a week, and there were no signs of the miscarriage starting by itself, I had another surgery to reduce the risk of infection. These surgeries are called ‘removal of products of conception’. Not exactly very sensitive,’ Emma says.

In 2015, one year after her first miscarriage, Emma went on to have two more. At the end of the year, she got pregnant for the fifth time and, after an anxiety-ridden pregnancy, her son, Henry, was born.

After all they’d been through, Emma and her partner decided that they didn’t want to waste a second – and tried for another baby. Their second son, Thomas, was then born, but sadly, he had multiple health issues.

‘He was exceptionally poorly,’ Emma reflects. ‘He had been diagnosed with a congenital heart defect during pregnancy, amongst other issues, and was born by emergency c-section and taken away immediately at birth, intubated and taken straight to the NICU.’

Thomas was later transferred to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, where he lived his entire life in intensive care. He died in April 2018, aged just six months.

Emma Garner with son Thomas before his death (Picture: Supplied)
Emma Garner with son Thomas before his death (Picture: Supplied)

After Thomas’s death, Emma and her partner decided that they wanted to try for another sibling for Henry. She became pregnant again later on in 2018, but sadly miscarried at 10 weeks, and went on to have three more early miscarriages in 2018. The couple ended that year pregnant, and they welcomed their third son, George, in 2019, and their fourth, Oliver, in 2021.

Elsewhere, 49-year-old Sabina Dosani, from Hertfordshire, has experienced three miscarriages and one chemical pregnancy (a very early miscarriage that occurs during the first five weeks).

Each miscarriage happened around the first trimester – two of them she found out about at routine scans, and another she started bleeding and needed to wait several days for a scan, as sometimes it’s too early for medics to confirm the outcome.

Sabina Dosani has experienced three miscarriages (Image: Supplied)
Sabina Dosani has experienced three miscarriages (Image: Supplied)

‘I found the language used by medical professionals distressing,’ Sabina tells Metro.co.uk. ‘My grief was not acknowledged. I’m a medical doctor myself, so this was a disorientating experience. I don’t remember learning about miscarriage at medical school.’

Following her experiences, Sabina is delighted that parents in England will now be eligible to file for a baby loss certificate for pregnancies lost before 24 weeks. ‘Medicine is not good at recognising this grief. Any recognition would have been a solace,’ she shares.

However, she’s not without her concerns about the details – and worries that it risks perpetuating hierarchies of loss.

‘I’m ineligible for a certificate as my losses were before 2018,’ she adds. Like Emma, she worries that this means her grief matters less. ‘They’re certificates of recognition, and I wonder if some women will feel that their miscarriages matter less than women who lose babies after 24 weeks.’

Meanwhile, campaigners view the news positively, acknowledging that the pain of being unable to register pre-24 week baby losses has been unbearable for many families. In fact, baby loss charity Sands is offering extra support to parents who don’t qualify for the new scheme.

‘As the new Baby Loss Certificate is only currently available to people who are more recently bereaved, Sands’ commemorative ‘birth certificates’ are still available for any bereaved parents who would like to have them, wherever they live in the UK. A Memorial Book is already available for anyone in Scotland who has experienced pregnancy or baby loss prior to 24 weeks,’ Sands’ chief executive Clea Harmer told Metro.co.uk.

‘Sands is here to support anyone affected by pregnancy loss or the death of a baby, however recently or longer ago, for as long as they need this.’

Tommy’s chief executive Kath Abrahams adds: ‘The pain of losing a baby before 24 weeks is often made even worse because there’s no formal recognition.

‘We’re pleased that baby loss certificates will now be available to provide a degree of comfort for families.’

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