More stillbirth and neonatal loss support for fathers call

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Media captionHeatherjane Coombs and her husband Dave talk about their loss and the support they received

More should be done to encourage fathers whose partners experience stillbirth or miscarriage to seek help to deal with their grief, charity workers have said.

The latest figures available show 158 babies were stillborn in Wales in 2015 - 0.47% of all births.

Stillbirth and neonatal death charity Sands said while many women seek support, men were often reluctant.

The Welsh Government said health board bereavement services offered help.

Sands is holding a remembrance service for affected parents in Cardiff on Sunday.

10 miscarriages but still trying

Image copyright Sands
Image caption Sands is using a washing line with 15 babygrows pegged on it to symbolise the babies who are stillborn each day in the UK

Heatherjane Coombs, 43, was 36 weeks pregnant with her son Xander when she suffered a placental abruption in September 2004.

He died in the womb and she had to deliver him two days later.

Mrs Coombs, chairwoman of the Cardiff and Newport Sands group, said while the couple had fantastic care from their midwife and there was support for her, there was no-one for her husband to talk to.

She said: "So many people will say to the dads, 'how's your wife?' or 'how's your partner?' and very rarely people will say 'how are you?'

"I think that's another reason why it's a taboo with men, because of the fact that society in general doesn't make them feel that they can open up."

Mrs Coombs said while some couples come to the charity's support meetings together, and they have two male volunteers for fathers to talk to, generally more women attend.

Her husband, who is now a Sands befriender, said support for fathers had improved since his own loss but more could still be done.

He said: "As the partner you go into the mode where you're the hunter-gatherer - you try and keep working, you try and support, you have to be the strong one but what happens is you fall over later on.

"It's about saying to men, 'it's ok to grieve, it's ok to be upset' - in the long run, for your physical, emotional and mental health, it's good that you do grieve because it tends to come out in either physical or mental illness later on."

A Welsh Government spokesman said: "Stillbirth and late miscarriage can be devastating for the baby's parents and for the wider family members.

"That's why each health board in Wales has its own bereavement service which supports not only the parents, but wider family members."

Since losing Xander, Mr and Mrs Coombs, who did not have any more children following two further miscarriages, helped set up the Cardiff and Newport Sands group to support other parents.

Run mainly by volunteers, it holds monthly meetings and funds support packs and memory boxes for bereaved parents at the area's four main hospitals.

It also holds an annual memorial service to give parents the chance to remember babies who have been lost.

This year's service, led by Reverend Rhiannon Francis from the University Hospital of Wales Chaplaincy, is at 11:30 BST on Sunday at Wenallt Chapel at Thornhill Crematorium.

Memory cards can be written and relatives will have the opportunity to place a memory pebble in the memory bowl in its Ilex Garden.

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