Women's Mental Health
Perinatal Mental Health
The loss of a child will always have a devastating impact on a woman’s mental health and that of her partner. At Mind HK we understand that the loss of a baby at any time during pregnancy can be as devastating as the loss of a child. As part of our support for women’s mental health we are raising funds to ensure better resources are available to Hong Kong women and their families affected the loss of their baby either during their pregnancy or in the first years of life.
For most women the loss of a child, even as an early miscarriage, is never forgotten. Nothing can bring back your baby or the expectations of your life together.
The most that can be achieved for many women is:
- The recognition of their loss
- Respecting their feelings and beliefs
- Strategies to minimise their trauma
- Providing an adequate time and place to grieve
- Helping them achieve closure
Research shows that without the above the long term mental health of the mother and her partner may be put at risk impacting other children and other generations.
The following problems are not unique to Hong Kong but most global cities have long ago changed the law, policies, procedures, and made facilities available to make it more likely that the 5 key goals above can be achieved and to ensure that the loss of a baby is not compounded by unnecessary trauma and distress.
In Hong Kong these changes have not yet been made and these specific problems remain:
- An accepted and acceptable, translation for the word ‘stillbirth’ does not exist in Chinese, such is the stigma associated with it ‘dead fetus’ implying in Chinese that the baby was not human is what we have in common usage.
- Mothers of babies that die before 24 weeks, are not given the option to bury or cremate their child. In such cases, the body is considered medical waste and many parents remain uncertain as to how or where there babies were disposed of.
- Mothers of babies that die before 28 weeks do not qualify for maternity leave and there is no legal requirement to provide compassionate leave in such circumstances. Some employers fear that the return of a recently bereaved mother will upset the rest of the workforce and use unauthorised leave as an excuse to sack them.
- Women whose babies die before 24 weeks often deliver (due to the lack of single rooms) on the open gynaecological ward without a midwife and, due to enforced visiting hours, often without their partner.
- Information detailing evidence based best practice to reduce trauma, support grieving and reduce adverse mental health outcomes is not available in Chinese. For parents who have read in English about these strategies and seek to employ them the infrastructure to support better practice is not available. Specifically:- Single rooms for privacy,cool cots, tiny clothes, photographs, footprints memory boxes, grieving rooms, options for cremation and burial.
We aim to:
- Destigmatise miscarriage and stillbirth in Hong Kong, ensuring the emotional burden of losing a baby is recognised and respected. A significant PR campaign around the plight of bereaved mothers in Hong Kong is needed.
- Provide practical resources information and support, for women and their families who have lost their baby, to limit trauma, to support their grieving process, to help them achieve closure and return to good mental health. We will work with international organisations and government to help establish international best practice in Hong Kong.
- To help coordinate resources that empower women to help themselves and others by sharing their stories and offering their perspectives to enhance recovery. We will work with international stillbirth charities to translate their information and online resources into Chinese.
- Provide up-to-date information and training for healthcare professionals involved in caring for bereaved families, ensuring that parents are treated in a sensitive, empathetic and respectful manner. We will work with local and international professional organisations to support training destigmatisation and implementation of best practice for all those involved.
- Support local community group ‘Angel Parents Support Group’ and it’s affiliated closed group of ‘Stillbirth Mothers Walking Together’ and ‘Miscarriage Mothers Walking Together’, to lobby for essential legal and policy change by providing information on the evidence based best practice.