The sadness of stillbirth | Action Medical Research

Touching Lives - October 2013

The sadness of stillbirth

Nina McConnell and her husband had been married for 16 years when they had their first son Jake, following a problem-free pregnancy. They decided to try for another child but Nina had two miscarriages before falling pregnant again.

Everything seemed to be going really well and Jake was looking forward to meeting the baby. He wanted a sister and suggested they name her Brook.

At 37 weeks Nina went for a routine check-up but the doctors told her they had bad news. “That day will never leave me. It was Thursday and the shock of suddenly realising there will be no baby to bring home was awful,” says Nina.

They decided to use the name that Jake had given his sister to help make sure he was involved and understood. Brook was stillborn on the Friday at 7pm. They hugged her until 9pm, then held a funeral for her on the Sunday.

Nina felt awful that she hadn’t known anything was wrong. When she was pregnant with Jake he’d been a big baby who hadn’t moved much, so she thought Brook was the same or that she was sleeping. Later that year Nina became pregnant again and was so worried she went to see a specialist.

Ryan was induced early at 36 weeks but was a healthy 9lb 5oz. He celebrates his fourth birthday this year, while his brother Jake will be 10.

Nina says: “We have been blessed with our sons but will never forget Brook and really hope the work that Action Medical Research is funding will help stop other families going through what we went through.”

Around 4,000 babies are stillborn each year in the UK. Stillbirth occurs when a baby of 24 weeks or more gestation is born with no signs of life. Many women who suffer a stillbirth say their baby moved around less than usual in the hours or days before they experienced their tragic loss. If an expectant mother notices changes in her baby’s movement patterns, it’s possible to check whether a baby is OK by monitoring its heart rate and performing an ultrasound scan. However, it’s not yet possible to predict whether that baby will stay healthy.

Action is funding research by Dr Lucy Higgins in Manchester to investigate the potential of two tests: one that analyses a mother’s blood and another that uses ultrasound scans to check the health of the placenta. It is hoped these tests will help predict which babies are most at risk during pregnancy of being stillborn so that they can get help earlier.


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