The death of a newborn is a traumatic, life-altering, and unbearably heartbreaking event. Bereaved parents often find themselves isolated in their grief, and for friends or family wanting to offer support, it can be hard to know what to say or do to help.
Unfortunately, despite being a taboo subject, the loss of a newborn is not rare. Around 15 newborns die every day in the UK before, during, or shortly after birth. Most people are still unaware of how common this uniquely painful bereavement is, as well as the long-term repercussions it has on families.
What Is SANDS?
SANDS is the Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Charity. Founded in 1978 by parents who had suffered loss themselves, the charity is now a key organisation that supports parents and families who have experienced the heartbreak of stillbirth or neonatal death. SANDS generates funds to help affected persons and support further research on prenatal mortality.
How Common Is Stillbirth and Neonatal Death?
A stillbirth occurs in one out of every 225 births in the United Kingdom. On average, roughly 3,400 newborns die each year. Stillbirth can be caused by a variety of factors, and in the vast majority of instances, the baby appears to be perfectly healthy. However, for about one-third of births, there is no apparent cause of death, which is referred to as ‘unexplained’.
While a huge percentage of stillbirths and neonatal fatalities are inevitable, there are still a considerable number of deaths that might have been prevented. SANDS hopes to reduce the number of newborns dying by at least 20% in 2021.
Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Charity Awareness Month
This year’s Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Charity awareness month will take place in June, with the theme Always There. This reflects the SANDS’ aim that support should always be there for parents who have lost a baby. The campaign aims to:
- Raise awareness of the issues surrounding stillbirth and neonatal death;
- Provide support for bereaved families;
- Ensure mothers who are pregnant after loss receive the support and care they need;
- Raise funds for ongoing research to better understand what causes unexplained fatalities in babies.
You can support SANDS by joining the campaign, interacting with SANDS’ social media channels, sharing #AlwaysThere posts, or offering financial support towards SANDS’ stillbirth and neonatal death research.
How To Help Someone Who Has Lost A Baby
It’s never easy to find the right words to console someone who has experienced a stillbirth or neonatal death, but strong friends are essential for parents to depend on in this situation. Some of our suggestions include:
1. Make sure you realize that there is no such thing as a “perfect” statement. Simply acknowledging their loss and validating their sentiments may be the kindest thing you can do.
2. Allow them to be silent if they need to, or listen to their sorrow if they want to talk about it. If you are close friends, tell them they can call you at any time of day or night.
3. Ask if there are any everyday tasks that now feel overwhelming. Help them with those tasks.
4. Let them know that you’re prepared to help the family with funeral arrangements if needed.
A stillbirth or neonatal loss are amongst the most traumatic experiences that any parent may go through. Whether you are a bereaved parent or someone consoling a bereaved family, SANDS awareness month is aimed at supporting you at this difficult time.
Support from other families who know what you are going through can be vital in acknowledging your feelings. SANDS offers a helpline for anyone affected by the death of a baby, as well as a forum to connect with other families who have experienced the same thing.
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