‘The Pregnancy Loss Certificate Will Bring Comfort To Parents Like Me At Their Lowest Point’

The certificate has been announced as part of the response to the Pregnancy Loss Review and is the recognition of a life lost, says MP Cherilyn Mackrory

by Cherilyn Mackrory  |
Updated on

Trigger warning: this article discusses personal experiences of baby loss that some may find distressing.

I had settled down on the sonographer’s couch, cold gel on my tummy, excitedly waiting for that first glimpse of my wriggling baby.  It was my routine 20 week scan, but in that moment, everything fell apart.

The poor sonographer was not able to give my husband and I a diagnosis, but swiftly arranged an appointment at our main hospital, the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro, and we were seen within the hour. We were met and taken to a side room, which we knew wasn't a good sign. I was then scanned again and the lovely female consultant delivered the shattering news.

Our baby had an extremely severe form of spina bifida [where the baby's spine doesn't develop properly in the womb].  "It may not survive the pregnancy," they told us, "and even if it does, this baby will have no quality of life."

We waited for potential options. All the healthcare professionals slowly shook their heads.

The following day, we signed the form and consented to the ending of our baby’s life. Two days after that, at 21 weeks gestation, I was induced, endured an 8 hour labour and delivered our tiny, sleeping, beautiful baby girl, Lily. She was the miniature image of her big sister, but with light blonde hair. I kissed her, told her how much she was loved, wrapped her up warm, and then I let her go. I left her in the care of a kind and wonderfully gentle midwife, which was the hardest thing I have ever had to do.

Later that year, my husband and I attended the Baby Loss Awareness Week memorial service in Truro.  There was a very large book of remembrance. I looked up Lily’s date and there she was. Her name. She had existed and someone else had taken the time to write her name. It hit me like a punch in the gut. It made her into a real person.

Only a couple of months later, I was elected as the MP for Truro & Falmouth and attended my first meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Baby Loss. I have now chaired this cross party APPG for over three years, and it is an honour to advocate for families who have suffered a loss as well as the midwives and other healthcare professionals who care for them.

The National Bereavement Care Pathway, which has been adopted in most NHS Trusts in England, has been transformational in ensuring that families like mine, whose pregnancy is cruelly cut short, receive special bereavement care during the event. Memory boxes and photos are encouraged, as is time spent with your baby to say goodbye. The Pregnancy Loss Certificate, announced by Government this week, is something parents have been asking for, to help bring comfort at their lowest point.

The certificate has been announced as part of the response to the Pregnancy Loss Review and is the recognition of a life lost. This is an optional, official, but not legal, document which can be issued to families who lose their baby at any time before 24 weeks gestation. Before 24 weeks, all losses are classed as miscarriage, rather than stillbirth. This means that for babies like mine, there has been no record that she ever existed. Yet she did. The Pregnancy Loss Certificate changes this.

Putting a baby’s name on the certificate means that it could be kept with their siblings’ birth certificates or put somewhere special with the rest of their baby mementos. Nothing can take away the pain of losing a much wanted and much loved baby.  The grief, like any other, must be navigated at one’s own pace and in one’s own way. But I would like to thank Ministers for listening to the voices of bereaved parents and introducing the certificate as quickly as possible after the review.

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