21 July 2024

Baby loss certificates a breakthrough moment….but more action is needed.

Certificates recognising the loss of a baby born before 24 weeks must be the “first step” towards greater rights for bereaved parents, a leading campaign group and Labour MP say today.

It was announced last week that bereaved parents who have gone through the painful experience of miscarriage or stillbirth will now receive official documentation which records the child’s birth.

Keeley Lengthorn, a solicitor and the founder of George’s Law, welcomed the “breakthrough moment”. But she says new laws are now needed to provide statutory paid leave to bereaved parents and, via her George’s Law crusade, she is now fighting to make this law.

Ms Lengthorn – who lost three children in the space of three years – said: “The introduction of the certificates of loss are a pivotal and monumental development in maternal bereavement care. It is a breakthrough moment for many of us who have had to suffer the fact our babies were effectively not being recognised as having existed. But they should only be seen as the first step. Whilst the certificates will be able to be used to provide to employers to take leave from work in the event of a loss, such leave will not be statutory entitled paid leave.

“That’s why we need to go further, faster. My hope is that George’s Law will be introduced onto the statute books to accompany the introduction of the certificates in providing holistic support for grieving families.”

Her call has been backed by Labour MP Carolyn Harris, who is supporting the George’s Law campaign.

Ms Harris, who has led a high-profile campaign to secure more support for women experiencing the menopause, said: “This is a truly welcome development that I hope will give bereaved parents some comfort in their darkest days. My hope is that this is just a first step in the support that will be given to those who lose a baby before 24 weeks and that George’s Law can be established to allow parents time to grieve.”

Following last week’s announcement all parents who have experienced baby loss since September 2018 can apply for a certificate recognising their loss.

They can visit the Gov.UK website applicants must be at least 16 years old, have been living in England at the time of the loss and be one of the baby’s parents or surrogate.

In Wales, there are plans to deliver a similar scheme. A memorial book where people can record their pre-24 week losses is already up and running in Scotland.
Babies who are born sleeping after 24 completed weeks of pregnancy are called stillbirths, and their deaths are officially registered. But this does not happen for babies who die before that stage.

Pregnancy loss or miscarriage before 24 weeks is the most common complication of pregnancy, experienced by an estimated one in five women in the UK.