While the topic of pregnancy loss, specifically in its very early stages, is one that used to be confined to secrecy—in recent years women are choosing to share their personal experiences, allowing others to feel less alone in a grief that society still isn't quite sure how to handle.
Earlier this year, Chrissy Teigen shared a series of photographs following the loss of her third child, Jack. The photos, which were met with praise, were followed by a heartfelt and raw essay from Meghan Markle, who shared she had miscarried her second child in July of this year.
Now, in an incredible move to support bereaving parents, Victorians who have experienced the loss of a child in early pregnancy can apply for a commemorative certificate from the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages. Similar certificates are already available in some other states.
Early pregnancy is one that occurs before 20 weeks of gestation and is not formally registered as either a birth or a death, meaning oftentimes parents who experience an early loss do not have a way of recognising the life taken too early. Every day, in Australia alone, approximately 282 women lose a baby before 20 weeks’ gestation, and one in four pregnancies ends before 12 weeks.
Victorian Premier Dan Andrews wrote of the new initiative, "Around one in five pregnancies ends in miscarriage before 20 weeks. It's not something that's talked about much—nor is it formally recognised as either a birth or death.
"And those who've experienced early pregnancy loss often find themselves dealing with it alone, with no real way of expressing their grief. This won't be everyone's choice. But hopefully, it'll help bereaved parents mourn the child they never got to meet."
Andrews added the commemorative certificate was designed by Till Heike, an artist who has been involved in stillbirth support since losing her daughter in 2014. It features a pair of helmeted honeyeaters—Victoria's state bird—and the state flower.
Attorney-General Jill Hennessy said she hoped the certificates would provide some solace to parents and families who had been affected by the tragic loss of a child.
“When parents experience early pregnancy loss, neither a birth or death certificate is issued—these certificates are a meaningful way to recognise this significant event," Hennessy said. “It’s important we remember those children who were taken too soon—we hope that these certificates provide some solace to parents and families who’ve been affected by such a tragic loss.”
The initiative is the result of a partnership between the Registry and SANDS Victoria, who provide support to Victorians who have experienced miscarriage, stillbirth or newborn death.
For grief support phone 1300 11 HOPE