Thursday, 31 May 2012

Pregnancy and Infant Loss Day Speech

NSW PARLIAMENT, 31 May 2010 on the following motion:

Mrs SHELLEY HANCOCK (South Coast—The Speaker) [12.32 p.m.]: I move:
      That this House:

      (1) acknowledges the continued work of PILARI, the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness and Research Institute;

      (2) notes that 15 October is internationally recognised as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day;

      (3) notes the Fifty-Fourth Parliament unanimously endorsed a motion to give consideration to recognising an annual Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day in New South Wales; and

      (4) calls on the Government to declare 15 October as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day in New South Wales.
Ms KRISTINA KENEALLY (Heffron) [12.49 p.m.]: I speak today on this motion not only as the member for Heffron but also as the patron of the Stillbirth Foundation Australia. I thank the Speaker for bringing this motion to the House and all members of the House who have supported it. This is a difficult issue to talk about; it is difficult for women, for their families and for our society to talk about it. But it is important that we talk about it, because until we start to talk about the scale of the problem of pregnancy loss as a major public health issue in this country we will never be able to direct the type of money and resources needed for research that could avoid this tragedy for so many families. I can speak of this from personal experience: I am the mother of a stillborn daughter, Caroline, who was born in June 1999. Her life stays with me always. She changed me and she changed our family. I have never met the parents of a stillborn baby who have said anything but that—that a very short life, a very small life, has introduced enormous changes to them and to their families and, indeed, brought a new dimension of love into that family; great sorrow and loss but also love.

That is why days of remembrance are important. Stillbirth is a major health issue in this country. Six babies a day are stillborn in Australia; that is one baby stillborn for every 135 live births. More than 2,000 babies are stillborn in Australia every year, and that rate has largely unchanged for decades. To put this into context: stillbirth can be credibly claimed to be the leading cause of death for infants under the age of one year in Australia. Sudden infant death syndrome accounts for 66 deaths a year. Those are tragedies, but as the member for Macquarie Fields has pointed out, the incidence in the rate of sudden infant death syndrome has come down by 85 per cent since the 1980s when the campaign started to put babies to sleep on their backs—an insight that was gained and a campaign that was developed out of research. That is why research is so important when it comes to stillbirth.

As I said, more than 2,000 babies are stillborn in Australia every year—that is 7.4 deaths per 1,000 live births. If we cannot recognise that as a major health problem in Australia and put the resources we need into research then as a nation we are failing families, we are failing parents and, particularly, we are failing those babies. Some people ask me how stillbirth can be prevented. We know a whole range of things about stillbirth, but we need to know more. Some jurisdictions in the world already provide advice to mothers about how to sleep and how to do foetal monitoring, and the role that maternal age and other risk factors play in stillbirth. Yet in Australia one-third of all stillbirths at term are still unexplained. If we can do anything as a country to prevent those tragedies we should.
That is why a day like the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Day on 15 October is so important.
I also note that legislation is currently before the South Australian Parliament to provide a birth certificate to mothers who have gone into labour and who have given birth to a child who has died before 20 weeks into pregnancy. It will be the parents' choice whether they receive a birth certificate. Those mothers have given birth, they have held their child and they have buried it, yet they have no access to any form of legal recognition from the State. The legislation in South Australia may pass in its current form, it may be rejected or it may be modified, but I encourage all of us in this State to pay attention to what is happening in South Australia; it may provide some insight into how we can better honour those parents and those families who have suffered the tragedy of a stillbirth.

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