Losing a baby at 20-24 weeks of pregnancy

Counselling and other sources of support

Parents grieved the loss of their baby intensely, and many found it very hard to cope with their feelings. Parents often sought support from their partner and family and friends. Talking about their experiences and loss was a way of coping for some, but not all. Some parents also felt the need for professional support via counselling or contact with other bereaved parents to help talk through their feelings.
Counselling

Counselling was often hard to access. While a few parents were offered NHS counselling, it was not common and rarely offered routinely and waiting lists were long. So parents often felt they were left to get on with their grieving alone. Some parents sought counselling via charities suggested in their baby’s memory box. Others received counselling through their employer or found a private counselling service.
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Many found counselling very beneficial. Elaine said it was a “real lifesaver” although she did find it extremely hard returning to the hospital where she had lost her baby for the sessions. Kelly said she bottled her feelings when close relatives were around and found counselling offered an opportunity to talk.
Fathers were rarely offered counselling. Asun felt “everything is focused on the mother, isn't it? You have the midwives coming to see you, and the bereavement midwife, but normally - it's not something that's offered to the dads... and the loss is for both.” Some couples actively sought counselling together as they were aware that bereavement can often lead to relationships breaking down. Joelle found that when “things are difficult, it gives us the opportunity to talk about them in a safe space.”
Some didn’t find the counselling helpful. Kamie felt her counsellor didn’t understand her and focused on whether she wanted another baby rather than her loss.
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Some felt that the counselling didn’t come at the right time for their grieving, which was very personal. David Z felt an organised slot for counselling wouldn’t work for him as he wanted to speak about his loss when the timing felt right for him and not at a fixed appointment.
Support from other bereaved parents and bereavement organisations

Many parents attended face-to-face support groups with other bereaved parents. These were either at the hospital or organised by national organisations such as Sands, (the Stillbirth and neonatal death charity) or the Miscarriage Association. Some parents were also helped by smaller local organisations. Parents found contacts in their baby’s memory box, from staff or friends.
Contact with other bereaved parents was often an incredibly positive experience. Parents often found they became part of a very supportive group of parents with diverse yet similar experiences at various stages of grief. Helen explained “they just get it straightaway”. Parents found it helpful listening to other parents and their experiences and feeling a connection with them. It allowed them to see other parents who were moving forward with their grief or had become pregnant again and had a healthy baby.
But contact with other bereaved parents wasn’t for everyone. Some found it brought up fears and anxieties. Sarah heard lots of stories of experiences worse than her own and “didn't want everyone to think that that's how it had to be”.
Some parents preferred to find support online through groups like Sands, the Miscarriage Association and Antenatal Research and Choices. Helen found the Sands website was a “fantastic resource” because she could find “the story of someone who lost like me”. Online forums offered the opportunity to speak to other parents who had similar experiences without the need to be face-to-face. Many didn’t post on the sites but read others’ stories, although Elaine did use the Sands Facebook page to ask for help when she was unsure whether to tell her son about the loss of his sister. Courtney found an incompetent cervix group on social media very helpful to discuss her experiences and possible future plans. 

Fathers’ experiences of support groups were mixed. Some found there were no men at all attending and felt on their own. Others were surprised and pleased when there were mainly couples there. Fathers often said they would have liked individual support as well, but it was hard to access.
Some parents regularly attended groups for a long time, while others just went a few times. It was a very personal choice. Getting pregnant again was often the point when parents felt they had to stop as it would be too hard for those experiencing fertility problems or had suffered repeated losses.

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