One Born Every Minute Debate: Should Stillbirth And Neonatal Death Be Shown On TV?

14/08/2014 16:47 | Updated 22 May 2015

Should stillbirth and neonatal death be shown on TV?

An episode of 'Call the Midwife', in which a baby dies from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, left viewers reeling.

For many who have suffered the tragedy of infant death, either through SIDS or stillbirth, the episode – whilst harrowing to watch – may have brought a small form of relief. After all, so many television shows featuring childbirth contain stories which end happily: 'One Born Every Minute', for example. Usually, at the end of each labour, no matter how traumatic, a happy family is left looking at a baby who is healthy and well. Nine months of waiting, finally over. However in 2013, Hayley Jackson and Pete Heseltine shared the devastation of losing their six-day-old son on the Channel 4 documentary.

There's an argument – and a valid one – which asks 'Why not?' After all, the majority of people settling down in front of the television do not want to be faced with the raw emotion and pain which comes from losing a baby whose arrival has been so longed for.

But it is this 'radio silence' which frustrates many of those who have experienced the loss of a child in their own lives, away from the lights and cameras of a television studio.

Over the past decade the stillbirth rate in the UK has barely declined, and as such we languish behind many other developed countries.


Every day, 17 babies are stillborn or die shortly after birth; that's over 6,200 families every year rocked to the very foundations, plunged into a pit of grief.


And so, it can be argued that featuring baby loss on television, whilst difficult viewing, will raise awareness of the fact that not every pregnancy ends wonderfully – something which all expectant parents should know; not in order to worry them senseless for nine months, but to inform and educate them.

Lisa Sissons' son, Finley, died a few days after birth in March 2012. "When Finley was born and didn't breathe, obviously we panicked," she says, "but when they got him going again I thought he'd be fine because I'd seen similar things happen so many times on One Born Every Minute."

This apparent lack of information which Lisa experienced, and which is shared by countless other expectant parents, has prompted Sands – the stillbirth and neonatal death charity – to launch a survey, the aim of which is to develop an understanding of the information given to pregnant women.

But the drive to raise awareness, held by so many bereaved parents, is not just about educating others. It's about giving their absent child a voice.

Because miscarriage, stillbirth and neonatal death remain such taboo subjects, a baby who has died risks becoming just a memory, a person talked only in hushed tones, something which happens, a part of life.


Instead, so many parents who have suffered the grief of losing a child do not want their death to be in vain; they hope that through their child's death enough awareness can be raised that eventually funding and research swells to the point that baby loss becomes a thing of the past. And, in so doing, their baby's loss of life will have saved countless others.


Perhaps 'One Born Every Minute' is not the place to frequently feature the death of a baby – at the very least, it is doubtful that a family who has just received the most devastating news of their lives will want their pain to be filmed. Hayley and Pete agreed to it in order to raise awareness of baby Kaiden's illness, a rare condition called Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia, which makes it nearly impossible to breathe unaided.

But it is worthy of its own air-time; its own programme, perhaps. Then, maybe, everyone can see just how awful the loss of a baby is, and how the shockwaves travel through family members for months, years and decades afterwards.

No pregnant mother wants to be told that something could go wrong; but 6,000 babies a year should not have to die in vain. If awareness is raised, and research is made, and preventative measures developed, then maybe – just maybe - the loss of a baby could be a thing confined to dusty television archives.

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