An awareness week is being held from 29th April to promote perinatal mental health and the complex nature of this painful time.


An awareness week is being held from 29th April to promote perinatal mental health. Perinatal mental health relates to the weeks leading up to birth and shortly afterwards. This is a particularly sensitive time in relation to severe mental health situations that can come about just before and after having a baby, such as a psychotic episode. However throughout pregnancy and many months or even years after giving birth mental health can be impacted. There are many situations in pregnancy that can cause challenges with our mental health, particularly if a baby is miscarried or stillborn. In such cases, feelings of grief at the loss and guilt as to how this could have happened are often experienced.

Today I will focus on stillbirth and the complex nature of what this brings, if a child is born between 19 and 24 weeks, not only emotionally but practically. The word miscarriage will be used by hospital staff, as legally a stillbirth only applies after 24 weeks. It can be incredibly hard to use this term, as the mother will have gone into labour and given birth to the baby. It can take some time for the body to register what has happened and the mother’s milk may even come-in days later whilst still in shock. It is important to use the term that feels right for you and your partner or family. Using the term stillborn may also give others insight into your experience, without having to explain what you have been through.

There will be many decisions to make. In hospital, you have the opportunity of a keepsake box for pictures and hand/foot prints and you will be asked whether you want to consider an autopsy. The results of the autopsy do take time and will mean a meeting at a later date where you are given the findings. This can bring up the trauma of what happened, perhaps a number of months ago and I would therefore suggest going with someone that can support you. There will in hospital also be the moment where you need to part with your baby, take all the time you need to do what feels right for you and your partner. You may want to arrange a funeral or ceremony to mark the baby’s life and perhaps choose a name, again ask for support from those around you. Becoming a parent of a dead child can feel like being part of a club you would never choose to join. Making sense of it all can feel impossible, as we do not “get over” a death, there is no time-frame and no rules to follow. How do we learn to live with it?

The first place to seek help when you need it is your GP. Tommy’s also has an advice line with midwives who are experienced in talking through pregnancy loss and have bereavement training.
0800 0147 800 open Mon – Fri 9am-5pm.
Seeking help to talk through the emotions, thoughts and decisions with a counsellor or therapist, such as myself, can provide the support needed to move forward at such a painful time.

Perinatal Metal Health Week 29th April – 5th May

Tommy’s hospital has a good section regarding this topic…

Emma Parr has a private practice in Wimbledon and is an experienced therapist who works with individuals covering a range of issues, but specialises in mothers and babies. MA. MBACP, PG Dip Couns. DBS Certificate.

Illustration by Muriel Clarke 

emmaparr.net   | 07387 812586