October 15 is International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day observed for pregnancy loss and infant death, which includes miscarriage, stillbirth, SIDS, and the death of a newborn.
Pregnancy loss is defined differently around the world, but in Australia a baby who dies before 22 weeks of pregnancy is referred to as a miscarriage, and babies who die at or after 22 weeks are stillbirths. Globally every year, nearly two million babies are stillborn and many of these deaths are preventable.
As varied as the experience of losing a baby may be, around the world stigma, shame and guilt emerge as common themes. Many women who lose their babies are made to feel that they should stay silent about their grief, either because miscarriage and stillbirth are still so common, or because they are perceived to be unavoidable. Many women who lose a baby in pregnancy can go on to develop mental health issues that last for months or years–even when they have gone on to have healthy babies.
Cultural and societal attitudes to losing a baby can vary tremendously around the globe. In sub-Saharan Africa, a common belief is that a baby might be stillborn because of the influence of witchcraft or evil spirits.
The primary focus of BMF-funded programs in rural and regional East Africa is to enable access to free professional maternal health services and infrastructure, safe childbirth, the delivery of live babies, and mothers not dying or injured during childbirth. Many stillbirths have been prevented with medical treatment, with some patients experiencing up to eight stillbirths in a row at term before experiencing the joy of successfully delivering a beautiful live baby.
The programs also include valuable counselling and follow-up care for women who have suffered the pain of miscarriage or stillbirth.