UK Politics

MPs' baby loss accounts move Commons

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Media captionMP Vicky Foxcroft tells of baby daughter's death

MPs have given emotional accounts of their experiences of baby loss during a Commons debate on the issue.

Several members were in tears as their colleagues shared their experiences and called for more to be done to reduce the number of deaths.

Conservative Antoinette Sandbach said losing her son was the "most devastating" event a parent can suffer.

Labour's Vicky Foxcroft said the pain of losing her five day-old daughter "never, ever goes away".

Ministers say they are aiming for a 20% reduction in stillbirths and infant deaths by 2020.

Each year about 3,500 babies in the UK are stillborn, defined as being born with no signs of life after 24 completed weeks of pregnancy - one in every 200 babies.

Another 2,000 babies die within the first four weeks of their lives, during the neonatal period.

Ms Sandbach and fellow Tory MP Will Quince, who has also lost a child, secured the debate which coincides with Baby Loss Awareness Week.

Opening the debate, Ms Sandbach, who lost her five-day-old son in 2009, said: "Parliament is helping to break the silence around the death of a child, which is the most devastating event that can happen to any parent."

She said there had been a "huge response" after she and Mr Quince spoke about the subject in a separate Commons debate last year.

The MP for Eddisbury added: "The sheer scale of child loss in the UK is an injustice and one that is suffered by so many families, year in, year out." It was "devastating" for each family affected.

Image caption Antoinette Sandbach lost her five-day old son to sudden infant death syndrome in 2009

In an emotional speech Ms Foxcroft, who was 16 when her daughter Veronica died aged five days, said she had not told many of her friends what had happened.

"She was never able to cry, to smile, but I loved her and I desperately wanted her.

"I still love her, she is always in my thoughts all these years afterwards, even if I do not talk about her all the time."

"The pain does get easier over time, but it never, ever goes away," she added.

Ms Foxcroft said she had been treated "like a kid, not a grieving mum", by every organisation she dealt with afterwards.

The next MP to speak, Conservative Sir Nicholas Soames, appeared close to tears when he stood up.

Support for fathers

Mr Quince's son was diagnosed with the rare chromosomal disorder, Edwards' syndrome, at his 20-week scan.

The Tory MP for Colchester told the Commons his son was "an incredible little fighter" who eventually lost his life in the last moments of labour.

On Wednesday it would have been his second birthday.

"I think about what he would have been like on his second birthday, I imagine a small boy running round our house causing havoc, winding up his sisters.

"It's not to be, but every single day you live with that grief. Fathers need that support too."

Mr Quince, who co-chairs the new all-party parliamentary group on baby loss, called for improvements in prevention, reducing smoking and obesity in mothers, as well as investigating why stillbirths occurred.

'Bravery and courage'

Responding for the government, Health Minister Philip Dunne said he had been "humbled" at the MPs' accounts of their experiences.

"There was barely a dry eye in the House when they were speaking, and I think that pays due tribute to their bravery and courage," he said.

Mr Dunne said it was important to encourage best practice across the NHS to minimise "insensitive conduct" towards grieving parents.

He said the government was working to improve the "unacceptable" rate of stillbirths, with the UK lagging behind other countries in reducing the numbers.

Sands, a stillborn and neonatal death charity, says 60% of pregnancies that continue to term but end in stillbirths could be prevented by applying the minimum standards of antenatal care and guidance for mothers and babies.

According to NHS Choices, about 10% of stillborn babies have some kind of birth defect that contributed to their death while about half of all stillbirths are linked to complications with the placenta.

A leading obstetrician, Professor Kypros Nicolaides, told the BBC in 2014 that offering all women Doppler scans, which measure blood flow between the placenta and foetus, could save 1,500 babies a year.

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