While celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women, the International Women’s Day (IWD) on Thursday 8 March is also a day to consider the feelings of women whose babies have died.

Sands is here to support all women who have been affected by the death of a baby.

The theme for IWD this year is #PressforProgress, which relates to the growing global movement of advocacy, activism, and support surrounding gender parity and sexism.

On this day, it is important to remember that bereaved mothers did not always receive the help and support they needed. In the mid-1970’s two women – Hazelanne Lewis, a psychiatric social worker, and Bel Mooney, a journalist – both gave birth to stillborn babies. At that time, most parents were not allowed to see or hold their babies, no pictures were taken and they were not told where their babies were buried.

Using her professional standing to break the silence around baby loss, Bel wrote a story for The Guardian describing her own experience, while Hazelanne wrote to national newspapers asking bereaved parents to share their stories. The avalanche of replies from all over the UK revealed the vast, unrecognised need for support and advice for bereaved parents and their families upon the death of their baby.

These two women sparked the discussion of the many difficulties in overcoming prejudice against openly acknowledging the death of a baby and the pain of bereavement. As a result, the National Stillbirth Study Group was set up in 1977, comprising of various health professionals and representatives from other bereavement support groups, who produced an information booklet for bereaved parents. It was this impetus that would form Sands.

Thanks to their effort and determination Sands will be marking its 40th anniversary this year, recognising the impact on the lives of many bereaved parents, improvements in bereavement care and funding vital research to help reduce the number of babies dying over the past 40 years.

The aim of the IWD is to also encourage people to continue the vocal fight for equality and a strong call to motivate and unite friends, colleagues and whole communities to think, act and be gender inclusive.

Dr Clea Harmer, Chief Executive of Sands, said: “On International Women’s Day it is important that bereaved mothers, like Hazelanne and Bel, are empowered to seek the help and support that they need, as it can be a highly emotional day for them as they remember their babies. I would urge anyone who has been affected by the death of a baby to call our helpline if they want to talk to us, or speak to other bereaved parents in our online community.”

Our confidential helpline and online community forum provide a safe place for bereaved mothers and anyone affected by the death of a baby to seek comfort and support. Our experienced bereavement support team is there to listen and signpost to further help.

The Freephone helpline number is: 0808 164 3332. You can also email the helpline if you would prefer at: helpline@sands.org.uk or visit the Sands online community forum    

IWD belongs to all groups everywhere and is not country, group or organisation specific. For further information and a full list of events taking place on IWD visit their website or follow @womensday on Twitter.

IWD logo courtesy of www.internationalwomensday.com