PARENTS

The Woman Determined To Reduce The Number Of Babies Stillborn In The UK

14/11/2014 12:18 | Updated 20 May 2015

wallet

There's a new must-have accessory for mums-to-be. It's not a wrap-around dress, or miracle stretch mark cream, but a piece of plastic that might just save your baby's life.

The Wellbeing Wallet is a plastic zip-lock pouch in which pregnant women can protect their antenatal notes. It's the initiative of MAMA Academy, a national charity dedicated to reducing baby loss in the UK.

The outside of the wallet is printed with vital information for a healthy pregnancy and advice on when to call midwife. And it's endorsed by every preschooler's favourite GP - Dr Ranj Singh, of CBeebies 'Get Well Soon' fame.

MAMA Academy was founded by Heidi Eldridge two years ago after her son, Aidan, was stillborn in 2009.

She says: ''During pregnancy you get bombarded with information. There's lots to read and you end up being distracted by freebies in gift packs so not many leaflets actually get read. Our Wellbeing Wallets remind mums of the key pregnancy aspects to help their baby arrive safely which they can carry with them wherever they go. They also act as great conversation starters for midwives as they're a discreet way of discussing sensitive topics such as giving up smoking.''

Had these wallets existed five years ago, Heidi believes her own tragedy may even have been prevented.

''Once I'd reached 12 weeks, I didn't think anything could go wrong. I wasn't given any information about monitoring my baby's movements and didn't call my midwife when I had abdominal pain as it faded quite quickly. Two days later I found out he'd died and my midwife asked me: "When did you last feel him kick?" And I couldn't remember.''

As she struggled to accept her own loss, Heidi was shocked to realise that she was far from alone.

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​In the UK, 6,500 babies are stillborn or die shortly after birth every year. That's 17 every day, or 1 in 200 births.

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A report in The Lancet in April 2011 showed that the UK has a higher rate of stillbirth than almost every other high-income country and that the level is exactly the same as it was 10 years ago. The report concluded that a substantial amount of stillbirths are potentially preventable.

Appalled by these findings, Heidi felt compelled to push for change and MAMA Academy was born. The charity aims to empower mums to feel in control of their pregnancies and to keep midwives up to date with the latest guidelines and research to help change practice faster.

''With the help of consultants and midwives from my local hospital, my clever husband put together a website. The Facebook page grew and it became apparent quite quickly that there was a need for our simple, clear, no frills information for mums right across the country. We became a registered charity within our first year, have hundreds of mums and midwives signed up to our newsletter and we now have a core volunteer team of eight.''

MAMA Academy now has a huge Facebook and Twitter following and the charity is working closely with NHS England and Sands (the stillbirth and neo-natal death charity) on a new stillbirth strategy. Heidi, now mum to Tobiah, four, and Tilly, one, works tirelessly to keep it all going.

''I'll be honest, it's really hard juggling everything, especially if the children become poorly. I have an incredible mother-in-law who is a devoted grandmother and looks after the children whilst I'm at work - and usually at a drop of a hat when I have a meeting to go to!

"I oversee the running of the whole charity so I may be sourcing new content for our website, giving support to mums through Facebook, chairing our trustee meetings, gaining fundraisers to fill our charity places, putting together information to share on our social media channels, organising a fundraising event, recycling clothes and empty baby wipe packets, liaising with hospitals or applying for funding.''

Despite the challenges and demands on her own life, Heidi continues to be spurred on by the desire to prevent others suffering as she did.

''When you receive positive feedback that you're making a difference, it's the most rewarding thing in the world. Midwives have told us that our information prompted mums to get checked sooner than they may otherwise have done and they'd been able to deliver their baby safe and well. Supporting mums through such a special time in their lives is a massive privilege.''

And there is already evidence that MAMA Academy is helping to reduce the number of baby deaths in the UK.

''Our Made to Measure campaign helped raise the profile of a programme which has proved to reduce stillbirth by up to 22 percent. It's been estimated that if all trusts adopt the Perinatal Institutes GAP programme, 1000 babies lives could be saved every year.''

The charity will be entering phase two of this campaign next year, while continuing to promote the Wellbeing Wallets. MAMA Academy currently funds the wallets for a few trusts in the South East and hopes to provide all trusts with them by the end of 2015.

2015 promises to be MAMA'S busiest year yet, and Heidi has some personal highlights to look forward to as well. ''I have just been shortlisted for Tesco Mum Of The Year which is a true honour and extremely exciting!'' she says.

Heidi admits she never envisaged MAMA Academy would become so big. Nor did she imagine that something positive would come out of such a heartbreaking event. But she says, she no longer wishes she could turn back the clock.

''The pain and complex grief of losing a child can't be described. When Aidan died I longed to turn back time as I went through all the "what if's" and tried to work out why it had happened. However, five years on I am blessed with two other very precious children and Aidan is in Heaven, spared of the troubles of this world. I will be with him again one day and until then MAMA Academy will have saved other babies' lives so I actually wouldn't change our tragic situation now.''

That's one strong Mama.

MAMA Academy is a UK registered charity helping babies arrive safely by promoting positive pregnancy. www.mamaacademy.org.uk

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