After a fitting nine months of lobbying by the Western Australian branch of SANDS (sudden and newborn death support), parents of stillborn babies under 20 weeks of gestation will now formally be recognised by the West Australian Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages.
Previously, laws in Western Australia did not allow the registration of stillborn children below 20 weeks gestation or less than 400 grams.
However, parents will now be able to apply for a “recognition of loss” certificate for loss that occurs before 20 weeks of gestation.
Western Australia's Attorney General, Michael Mischin, acknowledged the grief involved with early pregnancy loss.
“I acknowledge the emotional trauma and devastation which early pregnancy loss brings.”
“The registry has now amended their procedures so that if eligible parents choose to do so, they may apply for a certificate which acknowledges their baby's life.
“I hope this new measure will offer a degree of support and comfort to those who have suffered early pregnancy loss.”
At 12 weeks of pregnancy, an unborn baby has a heartbeat, can curl their toes, press their lips together and make facial expressions.
The change in the laws has been warmly received by parents of stillborn children. Sam McCulloch is the mother of a son who was born at 19 weeks and 2 days. His weight was around 320g, which was under the 400g requirement in order to be recognised under WA's previous laws. She says:
“A mother connects with her baby as soon as she knows she is pregnant, and a family grows from that moment too. For me it was really heartbreaking as our baby was born just before 20 weeks – because of a matter of days we could not have him recognised as a stillborn baby. Being able to have tangible evidence that he was part of our family however briefly would mean a great deal.”
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