Sands write about the right care and support for bereaved parents as campaign launches

By Clea Harmer, Chief Executive, Sands on 07 June 2021 Maternity Services Wellbeing Of Women NHS

For more than 40 years Sands has worked to make sure that bereaved parents and families get the support they need and deserve, and Sands has also worked to save babies lives. 

Every year at Sands we take an issue to focus on throughout the month of June. This year's campaign is called #AlwaysThere with different activity planned each week. Our aim is to raise awareness of how important it is that the right care and support is always there for bereaved parents, whenever their baby died.  

As part of our #AlwaysThere campaign we are calling on the Government to ensure that the transition to a midwifery-led Continuity of Carer model is properly resourced and supported, and that woman who are pregnant again after the death of a baby are able to access it as a priority.      

As you know this model of care has been shown to save lives and creates emotional and psychological safety for parents. We feel this is particularly important when a baby dies, or for those pregnant following loss.

The Better Births Four Years On report states that women who receive continuity of care are: 16 per cent less likely to lose their baby, 19 per cent less likely to lose their baby before 24 weeks and 24 per cent less likely to experience pre-term birth. Women receiving continuity of care report higher ratings of maternal satisfaction with the care they received.

For any pregnant mother, having familiar faces caring for her can help develop a vital relationship of trust and this is particularly important for those who are pregnant following loss. When a single midwife or team of midwives cares for a woman and her family, there is more opportunity to hear and understand her individual needs and concerns.

The effects of not receiving this model of maternity care were revealed in a survey by Sands in 2019, which found that more than 80% of women who had lost a baby had not met any of the midwives who looked after them in labour, before their labour began.

Comments made by bereaved mothers in the survey included:

“I didn't really know what was happening or what was normal. I knew I felt dreadful and lots of things were going wrong but there was never any continuity or holistic approach to my care. I just drifted from one bad thing to the next hoping everything would ultimately be ok. It wasn't and the outcome was catastrophic for me and my baby.”

“I spoke if my concerns on many occasions to varied midwives but not one of them shared the correct information with me or acted like reduced movements were anything to be worried about. I trusted my care providers and felt like I was being an over anxious first time IVF mum.”

Although NHS England has committed to providing Continuity of Carer, we are concerned that progress in rolling this out has slowed down. We know this has been in part due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and that another barrier to achieving Continuity of Carer for all women in England is lack of resource and staff to deliver it - the NHS is already short of around 2,000 midwives.

So, as services recover from COVID-19, the transition to a midwifery-led Continuity of Carer model must be properly resourced and supported, so every woman who is pregnant following a previous loss has the same team who are always there for them throughout their maternity experience. The latest additional annual funding of £95m for NHS maternity services is the opportunity to make this happen.

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