Specialist counselling could be provided to every mother affected by baby loss in England and Wales by investing £3.17 million nationwide, a new report has found.

The research by the Centre for Mental Health is an economic evaluation of baby loss charity Petals, which employs many of our members. The charity provides counselling to women who have experienced the death of a baby, as well as to their partners.

The report highlights the difference that counselling has made on the lives of families who have lost a baby, and demonstrates how the cost of running this counselling service reduces long-term financial impact on the NHS, society and employers.

Jo Holmes, BACP’s Children, Young People and Families lead, welcomed the findings of the report.

Powerful case

“It’s fantastic to see the powerful case that this report puts forward about the positive impact counselling has on people’s lives in these tragic circumstances, and how offering this service makes financial sense,” she said.

In 2017, there were 4,822 stillbirths or deaths of babies within 28 days of birth in England and Wales.

The report Life after loss: An economic evaluation of specialist counselling after baby loss  says there is a “major gap in provision” of specialist counselling for parents who have lost a baby in, even though they have experienced severe trauma.

It found that providing counselling to 4,822 mothers would cost £3.17 million a year. This covers counsellors’ salaries, office and management costs.

National safety-net of support

It says: “This would create a national safety-net of support to help parents at this immensely difficult time. No such service currently operates across England and Wales.”

The report’s executive summary adds: “Counselling is inexpensive, effective and reduces government expenditure. A national scheme to help people who are faced with the tragedy of loss during pregnancy or birth would benefit parents, families and government. This is a rare instance where fiscal prudence and compassion converge.”

Jo added: “Counselling gives people the time and space to help them begin to process what has happened after the loss of their baby, when they are surrounded by awkwardness and difficult conversations in the real world.

Trained professional counsellor

“Talking to a trained professional counsellor can be a starting point to living with this loss and help prepare people for having those tough conversations with family, friends and others about what they have been through.

"The trauma of baby loss can stay with a family, and it’s important to remember that it can affect the wider family as well as the parents.”

Petals’ support programme helps the parents of babies who are stillborn or who die within 28 days of birth to cope with the trauma of sudden, unexplained and tragic loss.

It runs a six-session counselling programme, which takes referrals from seven hospitals.

The cost of a counselling session delivered by Petals, including office and management costs, is £69.70. A complete course of counselling is six sessions, bringing the total cost to £418.20.

Petals’ records show that 57% of parents who use their counselling service go on to request a further six sessions once they are pregnant again.

The report shows the economic case for a larger and more robust funding mechanism that would enable nationwide support for bereaved parents.

Read the report.