Bereaved parents Amber, Darren, Vaishali, Bhavna and Vijay are asking people across the UK to sign an open letter to the next government, calling on them to take bolder action to end inequalities in baby loss linked to ethnicity. 

Together, we are raising awareness of inequalities and systemic racism in maternity and neonatal care to put the issue at the top of the next government’s agenda. 

The publication of the open letter marks the start of a campaign – End Inequality In Baby Loss – launched today (23 May).

Sands is calling on people across the UK to sign the open letter, asking the next government to take urgent action on inequality in baby loss.  

The parents backing the campaign all took part in the Sands Listening Project, which heard from a group of Black and Asian bereaved parents about the care they received. Half of the participants believed they received worse care or were treated differently by healthcare staff because of their ethnicity.

Following the release of the Listening Project report by Sands in December 2023, hundreds of campaigners sent emails to politicians across the country raising the findings. The government announced a new £50 million fund for research into maternity disparities in January, and the Minister acknowledged the scale of the problem in responses to MPs.  

We know a better system is possible. In the Listening Project, we also heard examples from Black and Asian parents of positive, joined-up, empathetic maternity and neonatal care. This must become the standard.

Parents explain why they want to help End Inequality In Baby Loss

Vaishali's daughter Jaya was born at 22 weeks on the 19th August 2019. Jaya lived for 14 minutes and died in her arms, holding her father's finger.

 "Early on, I was told my pregnancy was high risk. Yet, I did not receive any additional care. On the day of my 20-week scan, I was turned away because of a communication error between the clinic and the midwifery team. When I said that I was experiencing unusual symptoms, my concerns were ignored. I believe that if I had been listened to and given the right advice my daughter would be here today.

“Living with the loss of a child is something I wouldn't wish upon anyone. We need your help to ensure the government takes notice and helps to end racial inequalities in maternity care. Nobody should be at higher risk of losing their baby because of their skin colour.”

-    Vaishali, bereaved mother

In May 2019 Bhavna and Vijay's son Joshan passed away shortly after he was born. They had to wait for three years for an inquest into Joshan's death, where an independent coroner confirmed that a lack of medical intervention had contributed to his death.

“We had to fight for this eventual admission and apology from the hospital. We strongly feel that our concerns weren’t listened to by the midwives and doctors whilst Bhavna was in labour. Their body language clearly suggested that they had no empathy with the pain Bhavna was experiencing throughout her labour. Had there been a quicker response to the situation, our son Joshan would be here to celebrate his 5th birthday with us.

“There are so many families like ours who lose a baby because medical professionals did not listen to them. We want to help raise awareness, so no other family has to endure the pain we experience daily.”

-    Bhavna and Vijay, bereaved parents.

In 2022, Amber and Darren's joy turned to heartbreak as our twins, conceived after two miscarriages, were born prematurely and died as a result of missed opportunities in their care. 

"Despite our pleas for support during a high-risk pregnancy, crucial appointments were cancelled or overlooked, and our concerns were dismissed. A subsequent review highlighted nine instances where proper intervention could have saved our babies. Our memories are now filled with sorrow—birth and farewells, funerals, and visits to their graves. The loss extends beyond us; it impacts our older daughter, our family, and friends.

“We trusted in a system that failed us profoundly, leaving us questioning if our treatment would have been different had we been from a different background. It's disheartening to realise that racial disparities may have contributed to our tragedy. Our hope now lies in sharing our story, advocating for change, and ensuring other families receive the care and support they deserve.”

-    Amber and Darren, bereaved parents.

Why action is needed to tackle inequalities in baby loss

In the UK, there are persistent inequalities in baby loss by ethnicity. These are particularly striking when you compare rates of baby loss for Black and Asian families with those of white families.   

In 2021, Black babies were over twice as likely to be stillborn compared with white babies – and Asian babies were over 50% more likely to be stillborn. Black and Asian babies are also more likely to die shortly after birth compared with white babies.

Sands’ End Inequality In Baby Loss campaign, calls for action across the Government, NHS and professional bodies to make care safer and more equitable – to save Black and Asian babies’ lives. The next Government has a vital opportunity to finally end ethnicity related inequalities in baby loss. 

“We are calling on Government to make sure maternity safety is at the top of their to-do list, and to work with NHS leaders on creating long-term, funded plans aimed at eliminating inequalities in pregnancy loss and baby deaths. We must all challenge inequality when we see it, and the experiences of Black and Asian parents who took part in our Listening Project research are shocking.

"There is no doubt that listening to parents saves babies’ lives. We must ensure parents' voices are at the heart of research and policy changes to improve maternity safety and reduce inequalities. Sands is here for anyone who has experienced pregnancy or baby loss, always, because every baby and every family matters to us."

- Sands’ Chief Executive Clea Harmer

Find out more about the End Inequality In Baby Loss campaign.

Sands is here to support anyone affected by pregnancy loss or the death of a baby, however recently or longer ago, for as long as they need this.

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