International Pregnancy And Infant Loss Remembrance Day

19 October 2020


I move:

That this House:

(1) notes that:

(a) 15 October 2020 is International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day;

(b) on this day, parents, families, friends and healthcare workers will memorialise babies they have lost through miscarriage, stillbirth and infant death;

(c) infant loss is a tragic and terrible event to go through for families, healthcare workers and friends, and International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day provides an opportunity to mark their shared loss; and

(d) direct support for persons affected by pregnancy and infant loss is difficult at the current time considering the local health environment;

(2) acknowledges that:

(a) each year around 150,000 women in Australia experience some form of pregnancy or infant loss;

(b) further issues are commonly faced by those close to these tragic events such as depression, anxiety, changes in relationships, development of unhealthy coping mechanisms and post‑traumatic stress disorder;

(c) these effects, amongst others, are often underestimated and overlooked by healthcare professionals, friends, and even family members, especially concerning pregnancy loss related bereavement and subsequent grief;

(d) greater research and understanding is required to aide in the creation and establishment of programs, resources and services that support and provide assistance to survivors of baby loss and their families, and enable them to overcome their trauma and integrate their bereavement into their life in a healthy, helpful, healing manner; and

(e) services for people affected by pregnancy or infant loss have been continuing, as best as possible, their necessary and significant work during this recent and difficult period;

(3) expresses sympathy to all families who have suffered a miscarriage, a stillbirth or infant death; and

(4) commends every person who has supported parents and families through their journey from the loss of a baby.

When a family loses a baby by miscarriage, stillbirth or in the first month of life, they lose what should have been. Every couple waiting for a child dreams of what their family will look like, what personality traits the baby will have—will they be sporting or academic; will they have brown hair or red?—the list goes on. But a baby's deaths puts a quick stop to those plans and leaves a void and destroys hope.

It was International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day on 15 October 2020. It was a day for bereaved parents and families to remember the lives lost each year to miscarriage, stillbirth and neonatal death. It's also a day to remember those healthcare professionals whose words and touch make so many positive memories for families. I remember one particular midwife, so many years later, who, when she met our family, treated our baby not as a statistic but as a person. I didn't get to tell her then, because of everything else that followed, just how much of a difference she made to me and my husband. I can only imagine how difficult it's been for families and healthcare professionals, with the restrictions of COVID and the isolation, which would not have allowed families to make all of the memories which, in other circumstances, would be possible.

I want to acknowledge all the healthcare professionals, doctors and nurses and other ancillary staff who've provided that support to families this year. Approximately 106,000 Australians will be touched by the loss of a baby. That is six babies yesterday, today and tomorrow who will not reach their full potential and who leave a missing piece in the families they leave behind.

Recently, there's been much coverage about the tragic circumstances of the US singer John Legend and his wife Chrissy Teigen and the heart-wrenching images they shared after their loss of a third baby, a son, Jack. I acknowledge their heartbreak and sorrow. Their loss reminds us all that pregnancy, stillbirth or neonatal loss can happen to anyone, whatever their access to medical care.

Overall, Australia is one of the safest places in the world to have a baby, but, even here, over 100,000 pregnancies a year will end without a healthy baby to take home. That's why groups such as Red Nose, Sands, Miracle Babies, the Stillbirth Foundation, Bears of Hope and Pink Elephants are so crucially important to support families grieving the loss of their babies. These groups support and help mothers, fathers, grandparents and siblings negotiate not just the first few weeks and months after the loss of a baby but subsequent pregnancies, which are often difficult as they bring back so many negative memories. Unfortunately, having a good record can also cause isolation and stigma when a baby doesn't come home. Stress, anxiety and constant worry never leave a family that has experienced the loss of a baby.

The statistics tell us that six babies will die each day in Australia. That figure has not really changed since 1998. More research needs to continue to address these stubborn statistics. In 2017, 2,924 babies died in Australia in the perinatal period. Three-quarters were stillborn and the remaining 751 were neonatal deaths for many and varying reasons, such as prematurity, infection or abnormalities. For Indigenous Australian families, these statistics are much worse. They are almost twice as likely to experience the loss of a baby to stillbirth or neonatal death than the Australian population at large. Mothers who are considered economically disadvantaged are also more likely to have complications in their pregnancies that mean their babies will not survive. This rate also has not changed in the past two decades.

More work needs to be done to improve the health outcomes for all mothers and to improve the outcomes for all families into the future. October and, specifically, 15 October recognises those families for whom someone is always missing to celebrate birthdays, Christmas, graduation and all the family memories. It is about supporting parents and grandparents, mums and dads, and recognising the loss that is rarely spoken about. Talking about their feelings and concerns will help families better cope with the future that lies ahead. I offer my condolences to all families that are touched by the commemorations this month.