Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge showed her support for Baby Loss Awareness Week, meeting families and experts at Imperial.
HRH today visited the Tommy’s National Centre for Miscarriage Research at Imperial College London to meet families who have lost babies, and speak to leading experts in pregnancy research, care, and support.
Each year in the UK there are around 250,000 miscarriages and 11,000 ectopic pregnancies, while 3,000 babies are stillborn and 2,000 die shortly after birth. In a September 2020 YouGov survey, more than half of people also said they’d either been personally affected by pregnancy or baby loss or knew someone who had. Baby Loss Awareness Week (9-15 October) is a unique opportunity for people to come together in remembrance and to support bereaved families.
Understanding the science behind baby loss
HRH was given a tour of the Tommy’s National Centre for Miscarriage Research site at Imperial’s Institute of Reproductive and Developmental Biology by its Director, Professor Phillip Bennett.
Prof Bennett was joined by Prof Andrew Shennan OBE, who runs Tommy's Premature Birth Clinic at St. Thomas’ Hospital; Prof Basky Thilaganathan, who leads Tommy’s National Centre for Maternity Improvement at St George’s University Hospital; Prof Catherine Williamson, from Tommy’s London Research Centre at Kings College; and Prof Siobhan Quenby, from the Tommy’s National Centre for Miscarriage Research site at the University of Warwick.
The assemblance of world-renowned researchers told the Duchess about their ground-breaking work to understand the science behind baby loss in order to prevent it. HRH was also told about COVID-19 studies taking place at the research centre, which aim to evaluate the risks of the virus to pregnant women and their babies.
Tommy’s Chief Executive, Jane Brewin, then introduced the Duchess to families who sadly experienced baby loss, but have since been supported by the charity’s pioneering research clinics to have healthy children. One of Tommy’s midwives and a bereavement expert from Sands—a stillbirth and neonatal death charity—talked about the importance of emotional support for the whole family, and the practical help they offer to anyone affected. The Duchess also met children who have been born thanks to specialist care at Tommy’s research clinics.
Finding the root causes of miscarriage
Professor Bennett, based in Imperial's Department of Metabolism, Digestion and Reproduction, said: “One in four women experience miscarriage at least once in their reproductive lifetime, and most never find out why because healthcare professionals often simply don’t know; this can and must change.
“By finding the root causes of miscarriage, we can take steps to stop it from happening. For example, we know that around half of all early miscarriages are not due to genetic abnormalities, so there must be underlying causes that we can treat. We have a world class team here at Imperial, whose research will find the answers and save babies’ lives.”
Breaking the silence
Tommy’s Chief Executive Jane Brewin said: “Baby loss is often dismissed as ‘one of those things’ and something that ‘wasn’t meant to be’. This fatalistic attitude contributes to a failure to bring about change. Baby loss is one of the most heart-breaking things any family can experience – and one that’s endured all too frequently, but often quietly, because of this persistent stigma in society.
“Shrouding baby loss in secrecy and shame can lead to isolation for people already struggling with unimaginable grief, so this week is a crucial moment for everyone to come together in remembrance and know they are not alone. Breaking the silence is a vital step in supporting families, while our researchers continue working tirelessly to find ways of sparing others this heart-break and making pregnancy safer for all.”
Dr Clea Harmer, Chief Executive of Sands and Chair of the Baby Loss Awareness Alliance, added: “This year during Baby Loss Awareness Week we are highlighting the isolation many people experience after pregnancy and baby loss. In the pandemic, feelings of isolation have become more widespread than ever and many people have begun to talk more openly about grief.
“Many of those whose baby died during the pandemic will not have been able to spend time making memories or saying goodbye to their baby in the way they would have wanted to. Now more than ever, we can all come together to let those affected by pregnancy and baby loss know they are not alone, and we are all here to support them.”
Read more about the visit on the Tommy's website
Images courtesy of Kensington Palace
Article text (excluding photos or graphics) © Imperial College London.
Photos and graphics subject to third party copyright used with permission or © Imperial College London.
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