Lanarkshire mum campaigning for specialist baby loss units shares heartbreak with MSPs

A campaigning mum battling to have dedicated miscarriage units in hospitals across the country had her story heard by a group of MSPs.

Louise Caldwell, from East Kilbride, spoke at a virtual women’s health Cross-Party Group (CPG) last week, led by Central Scotland MSP Monica Lennon.

The 38-year-old endured the trauma of delivering her stillborn baby in a labor ward in 2019 after a 12-week scan revealed the little one she was carrying didn’t have a heartbeat.

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The loss endured by her and husband, Craig, as well as countless other women saw her start her campaign and launch a petition which has so far secured over 30,000 signatures.

Her campaign saw dedicated miscarriage facilities included in the Scottish Government’s Women’s Health Plan and a commitment from NHS Lanarkshire for specialist services in Wishaw General Hospital by the end of the year.

But she wants the specialist baby loss units rolled out across the country as a matter of urgency.

Louise told Lanarkshire Live: “I spoke at the CPG about the campaign and my own experience – it was difficult and it was the first time in a long time I cried when telling my story.

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Scottish Labor MSP Monica Lennon
Scottish Labor MSP Monica Lennon

“But I got some lovely comments, especially from Beatrice Wishart MSP, who first took my campaign to the Scottish Parliament.

“Monica Lennon also did a fantastic job at highlighting what I need from MSPs.

“Yes, progress has been made since I first began this journey over a year and a half ago but change needs to happen sooner rather than a year or two down the line and be across the country for everyone in the baby loss community.

“No woman past, present or future should have to deal with the emotional upset of being in the labor ward where you are met with new born baby photos on walls, thank you cards, baby cries and proud partners.”

The CPG also heard from an expert in nutrition in pregnancy and leading midwife, activist and author Leah Hazard.

The CPG follows a meeting Louise had with Maree Todd MSP, Minister for Public Health, recently along with Ms Lennon which she described as positive – although the East Kilbride mum will keep the pressure up until promises are delivered.

But Louise needs the support of women everywhere and is calling on MSPs and MPs to be pressured across the UK to bring about change.

“I have a promise from NHS Lanarkshire but what about women elsewhere – they aren’t going to come here. I need women far and wide to shout at the top of their voices. The status quo simply isn’t good enough,” she continued.

And she hopes that specialist baby units will make it easier for women to share their experience and open up about their grief and loss.

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“The baby loss community has been neglected and ignored for too long – and MSPs admitted that at the CPG,” added Louise.

“But if we have specialist facilities and signposting in place to support available it might help women open up and break the stigma which I feel is still attached to baby loss and then more people would speak about it.

“Change needs to come and promises need to be met or those in power will no doubt feel the wrath of the whole baby loss community. I appealed for women who had lost a baby to get in touch with their stories and I was inundated.”

Central Scotland MSP, Ms Lennon told us: “It was fantastic to have Louise Caldwell at the recent CPG Women’s Health meeting. She is a change-maker and certainly made a big impression on the CPG.

“I am confident she will steer a successful campaign towards the introduction of dedicated maternity units for women experiencing unexpected pregnancy complications.

“I will continue to support Louise in keeping pressure on the Scottish Government to help create a compassionate miscarriage service.

“The CPG was also delighted to welcome Leah Hazzard, NHS Scotland midwife, author of memoir ‘Hard Pushed: a Midwife’s Story’ and maternity activist.”

Cheryl Clark, NHS Lanarkshire chief midwife, said: “Recognizing the importance of privacy and grieving in a quiet and protected space, NHS Lanarkshire aim to finalize a dedicated unit for women and their families by the end of the year.

“This facility is sound proofed and in a quiet space within University Hospital Wishaw.”

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A Scottish Government spokesman said: “As set out in our Program for Government, we are committed to establishing a dignified, compassionate miscarriage service tailored to the needs of women by the end of 2023.

“The aim is to support the development of individualized care plans after a woman’s first miscarriage and ensure women’s services have dedicated facilities for women experiencing unexpected pregnancy complications.”

A petition to Westminster from Louise to extend the baby loss units to the four nations of the UK has been twice rejected – the reason stated that health comes under the remit of returned parliaments.

However, East Kilbride MP Dr Lisa Cameron has vowed to continue to take Louise’s battle to Westminster.

She presented Louise with an Early Day Motion from the House of Commons last year, commending her tireless campaigning.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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