Angela Richardson MP – The effect of the covid-19 outbreak on people experiencing baby loss
Angela Richardson MP (Guildford) spoke during a debate at Westminster Hall about the effect of the COVID-19 outbreak on people experiencing baby loss.
The Residents Network published a representation from South West Surrey MP Jeremy Hunt yesterday who also contributed to the same debate following a very personal and emotional representation from Cherilyn Mackrory MP who tragically lost her baby.
Angela Richardson MP began her representation by saying “This year will be remembered as a difficult year for so many people, but particularly for those who have lost loved ones—especially a much-longed-for baby. I rise to speak today because my difficult year in relation to baby loss was 2003, which coincided with the SARS outbreak.”
This is the video of Angela Richardson MP contribution to the debate.
This is the full address by Angela Richardson MP in text:
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms McDonagh. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Truro and Falmouth (Cherilyn Mackrory) on securing such an important debate, on her moving contribution and on her strength and courage in sharing her story about her loss of baby Lily.
This year will be remembered as a difficult year for so many people, but particularly for those who have lost loved ones—especially a much-longed-for baby. I rise to speak today because my difficult year in relation to baby loss was 2003, which coincided with the SARS outbreak. Stopping in Singapore for a couple of days in February 2003, on our way to introduce our first-born to her New Zealand grandparents, my husband, our baby daughter and I became very ill with a high temperature and a continuous cough. Only a few days later, our baby was coughing up blood and we were straight into A&E, where she was treated for pneumonia for several days. We were not counted in any official statistics, and we were not tested. It could have been any other type of virus that was prevalent at the time, but it was an illness that knocked us for six. It is the most ill I have ever been in my life. I was so ill that I was not well enough to care for my baby. I went on to miscarry in June, September and December of that year.
Although my personal experience is anecdotal, and correlation is not causation, the timing of my experience got me wondering—as we are discussing the effects of long covid and any viral illness—whether a lingering heightened immune response has any bearing on an increased incidence of miscarriages. I would be interested to know of any scientific research, either historical or under way now, that links this issue with repeat miscarriages.
I know that my year of grief was a fundamental tipping point in my life and caused me to re-evaluate everything I thought I knew, believed, cherished and held dear. Being an immigrant to this country, I understand a little about isolation: I have not had time to build extensive networks, and I do not have the deep roots that many people who have grown up here have. I did have my National Childbirth Trust group, and I will never forget how blessed I was that I was busy hosting our regular gathering when I started contracting at 14 weeks, two weeks after we had announced to everybody that we were pregnant again. One friend scooped up my daughter and took her home to look after her, and the other took me to the local doctor. She was with me when my waters broke. Then she took me to A&E and stayed with me through a difficult labour and delivery. I was not prepared for many things, including my milk coming in afterwards—or that, years later, I would have flashbacks.
I asked for a test to be done on that particular miscarriage, because it was further along than the other two. Unfortunately, I received a note from the consultant a couple of weeks later to say that they had not done the test and that the foetus had been taken to be incinerated. As hon. Members have said, it leaves people left wondering what they have done wrong. What could have been done differently? Not having answers is probably one of the most difficult things. I can only imagine how difficult it is for families who have had to endure this situation through lockdown conditions. We need to ensure that support is in place for such families.
By the time our second child arrived, I had been pregnant, almost continually, for 18 months. I have spoken openly about suffering from both perinatal and post-natal depression. The effects of baby loss are profound and long-lasting. The passage of time has softened my grief, and my mother always said you can’t put an old head on young shoulders, but if I can use today’s important debate to send a message to women who are coping with baby loss during this time of extra concern and difficulty with covid, I would say this: be kind to yourself, and be patient. Do not be afraid to ask for help from your frontline healthcare providers, and get any support that you need with mental health.
Taking the opportunity to tell our stories, as we are doing today, is a wonderful thing that women can do for each other. It lets others know that they are not alone, especially at this time, when we are more concerned about isolation and loneliness than ever before.