WHO: Why we need to talk about losing a baby

20 March, 2019

Dear HIFA and CHIFA colleagues,

Below are extracts from a new feature on the WHO website. Full text here: https://www.who.int/maternal-health/why-we-need-to-talk-about-losing-a-baby

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Losing a baby in pregnancy through miscarriage or stillbirth is still a taboo subject worldwide, linked to stigma and shame. Many women still do not receive appropriate and respectful care when their baby dies during pregnancy or childbirth...

Pregnancy loss is defined differently around the world, but in general a baby who dies before 28 weeks of pregnancy is referred to as a miscarriage, and babies who die at or after 28 weeks are stillbirths. Every year, 2.6 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...

In sub-Saharan Africa, a common belief is that a baby might be stillborn because of witchcraft or evil spirits.

Larai, 44, pharmacist, Nigeria: “Coping with my miscarriage was traumatic. The medical staff contributed a lot to my grief despite the fact that I am a doctor too. The other issue is the cultural attitude. In most traditional African cultures, people think you can lose a baby because of a curse or witchcraft. Here, child loss is surrounded by stigma because some people believe there is something wrong with a woman who has had recurrent losses, that she may have been promiscuous, and so the loss is seen as a punishment from God."

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Best wishes, Neil

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HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of the HIFA global health campaign (Healthcare Information For All - www.hifa.org ), a global community with more than 19,000 members in 177 countries, interacting on six global forums in four languages. Twitter: @hifa_org FB: facebook.com/HIFAdotORG neil@hifa.org