Our beautiful baby daughter Anabelle was born sleeping June 2010.
Blessed with the screaming arrivals of our gorgeous rainbow sons,
Alexander October 2011, Zachary November 2013 and Lucas July 2016.

After Anabelle - Raising Rainbows
Heartbreak. Joy. Death. Life. But most of all Love.

Thursday, 28 February 2013

The Welsh Assembly

It has been a decisively busy week; Anabelle's story in the local media yesterday, along with Alexander walking, as well as After Anabelle guest blogging over at How I Came To Hold You this week too. It is a post I wrote nearly a year ago as a guest post, but still entirely relevant and true today. Go over and take a read, and find out more about the How I Came To Hold You book, being published a month from now and hoping to raise lots of money for Sands. 

I think 'Being Bereaved' was an important post to share again this week in the light of the Welsh Assembly report into stillbirth, published yesterday. The everlasting impact a stillborn child has on a family. 

In the year Anabelle was born, 2010, she was one of 190 babies to be stillborn in Wales according to Sands. Equating to approximately 4 babies are reported to be born asleep every week in Wales. Anabelle is one of a much much larger number when including the whole of the UK. Every day, nationwide, 11 babies are stillborn and another 6 die very shortly after birth. 17 baby deaths a day. Far far too many every year. 

In the chairman's forward of the Welsh Assembly findings Mark Drakeford reports that "The stillbirth of a child is a tragedy which devastates families. Yet our awareness, as a population, of stillbirth – particularly its causes and what can be done to prevent it – is worryingly low. There are approximately four stillbirths in Wales every week. In 2011, 150 Welsh babies were stillborn. While neonatal and infant mortality rates have improved significantly over the last decade, stillbirth rates have barely changed since the early 1990s. The stillbirth rate in Wales – and across the UK – remains higher than in most other European countries. In a recent Lancet analysis, the UK ranks 33rd out of 35 countries of similar income in terms of the rate of stillborn babies.

The evidence we heard during our inquiry was startling. Stillbirth remains more common than Down‘s syndrome and ten times more common than cot death. It is Wales‘s most common form of child mortality. And yet we do not talk about it. We fail to discuss it as a matter of course with our expectant parents; the training of our health professionals about the subject is patchy; we struggle to review stillbirths when the tragedy occurs; and we fail to undertake the vital research needed to understand its underlying causes."

I've underlines the statement that stood out most to me. I felt remotely amazed, the most common form! The most common form of child mortality in our country, but we do not talk about it. And we really don't; which is why I continue to channel my energies into raising awareness. 

The Welsh Assembly report suggest 9 key findings; small but important steps that collaboratively could contribute to the reduction in stillbirth across Wales. It would be encouraging to find out the UK wide government adopts the same recommendations. The report is very readable, take a look... 

Message one, another thing that struck a chord with me in the report is the improvement of public awareness, ensuring that stillbirth is discussed during routine antenatal appointments and expetant parents are made aware that it can and does still happen.  

Public awareness would remove the silence and taboo that surrounds our reality. 

Being informed isn't scaremongering.  Currently I beleive we are lulled into a false sense of security, after the first triemester our society as a general rule begin to take for granted that after getting through the high risk of miscarriage stage our babies are guaranteed. Health professional shy away from discussing with parents about what can go wrong at later stages of pregnancy, so how are we to know any different.

During Anabelle's pregnancy, we were not informed about stillbirth, not really. We were told to monitor movements, but the reality that babies can die was not once discussed. Maybe if it had been it would've made us make different decisions; namely my eternal regret we didn't go to the hospital the night before when we were first concerned.  Assuming she was sleepy rather than poorly or distressed. The moment where I failed her the most. 

We are a nation of 'not wanting to make a fuss', so instead of ringing a midwife when we are concerned about babies movements or anything else we try home remedies first. A icy cold glass of water, a lie down, something fizzy etc. etc. Health professionals should be reassuring us it is OK to ring straight away, checking on our babies straight away. This is where they should be raising awareness. 

The day Anabelle died, the morning when I realised she wasn't just sleepy.  When we hadn't found her on the heart montior I was hysterical, I just knew, I knew she was gone. But a phonecall to the hospital got me a 'telling off' from the midwife for having a heart monitor at home 'because I wasn't trained to use one'. We were asked to wait two hours before going in for a check because they were busy. Two hours, when my baby was already gone. I knew that, deep down, but they didn't. Instead of asking me to wait two hours they should have had us straight there, incase there was a chance she could be saved. Health professionals should not be making us feel like we're making a fuss. 

To be fair to the hospital, after we were told she was gone I cannot fault them, they were caring and compassionate. The looked after us well. We felt confident enough to have Alexander with them too. But why did it take Anabelle to die for us to have such detailed and thorough care? 

The other recommendations include improving professional awareness, implementing a maternity network to standardise care across Wales, more active care of women who are past their due dates, improving professional training. 

Just some of the elements that might have saved Anabelle.  

The day she died I saw a different midwife at my antenatal check up.  Would it have been different if it had been the usual lady? I'm not trying to lay blame, just this report has once again made me explore the multitude of 'what ifs' I torture myself with.   The day she died the midwife commented that her heart rate was a little fast, but not fast enough to be concerned. She sent me on my way. In hindsight, this raised heart rate was probably our warning that all was not well. We should have been concerned, we should've been sent to the hospital. Hindsight is a wonderful thing.  

Over the next few hours Anabelle's movements decreased. By bedtime she hadn't moved for many hours, although still alive. I knew this because we had the heart monitor. Because she was alive I didn't go to the hospital until the morning, by which time she had died overnight.   Could have refreshed and improved professional training, or a report such as this made the midwife make a different decision in that short five minutes antenatal appointment? 

 But the key recommendation is that "there is no single step which, if taken, would remedy the risk of stillbirths in Wales. Yet, we believe that progress towards that end has been held back by a frame of mind in which the search for the perfect has driven out the possible. Consideration of the relatively small steps that have already been devised – or can be devised relatively straightforwardly – to make a difference to the rates of stillbirth in Wales is long overdue. These steps need to be taken now." 

Now 

I hope this report doesn't only remain newsworthy for a few days. I hope the Welsh Assembly are serious about keeping this issue in the public eye and ensuring the changes they have recommended actually commence. 

Much too late for Anabelle though, maybe if this report had been undertaken and published three years ago we would still have her.  Maybe something about our care would have been different enough to save her. If only. 


*Today After Anabelle got a new domain name! Check it out above; www.afteranabelle.com


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After Anabelle - Raising Rainbows. I'm Caz, Mummy to beautiful angel Belle and my wonderful rainbow boys, Xander, Zachy and Luc. Wife to Jon. Twitter @cazem Instagram @cazzyem
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