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Leader/Times Column 21st October 2016

Last week was Baby Loss Awareness Week. Over twenty UK-based charities organise the awareness week annually to mark the lives of babies lost in pregnancy or soon after birth. I played my part by wearing the Baby Loss Awareness ribbon when asking the Prime Minister about her support for the regeneration of Brierfield Mills and attended a meeting with the Health Secretary, hosted by the Speaker, John Bercow.

Having visited our local maternity units, I know how dedicated and talented the staff are that help Pendle residents bring new lives into the world. However, giving birth is rarely simple and each year 3,500 babies in the UK are stillborn. A further 2,000 babies die within their first four weeks. Each baby lost is a profound tragedy for the family, especially the mother and one loss is one too many. Unacceptably, the UK is behind other countries on rates of stillbirth. 

We need to talk about this but it is a difficult topic to discuss. There is a taboo that charities and now Parliament are trying to break. On Thursday last week, the Commons held an incredibly moving debate as MPs shared the experiences of people they represent, or told personal stories of losing a baby. Some were genuinely harrowing but this is vital to break the stigma attached to stillbirth and neonatal death. It is essential to talk about this if we expect to see improvements.

Some progress is already being made, with neonatal deaths down 8% since 2010 but the Government accepts the current situation is not right and has set an ambition to halve the rate of stillbirths, neonatal and maternal deaths and brain injuries during birth by 2030. A range of measures have been set out to achieve this, including extra money for training and an end to the ‘blame culture’ that can get in the way of learning lessons on those occasions when, tragically, something does go wrong.

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