SANDS Awareness: What GPs Can Do to Help

June marks SANDS Awareness Month. This can be a difficult time for those who have experienced stillbirth or neonatal death, and many parents will require ongoing support from their GPs as they come to terms with what’s happened. Infant loss is a sensitive subject, and one that GPs and medical practice staff can benefit from researching and understanding more about in order to provide parents with the help and advice they need.

About SANDS Awareness Month

SANDS Awareness Month is an annual campaign run by the SANDs Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Charity. It’s designed to help raise awareness of SANDs and make sure that parents are provided with the support they need.

The theme of this year’s campaign is ‘Finding Your Way’. The focus here is on tackling taboos that still exist around baby loss, and encouraging open conversations – especially among men.

SANDS in the UK

In the UK, 15 babies die before, during or soon after birth every day. This includes the 3,200 stillbirths that took place in 2017, and the 2,131 babies who died within the first four weeks of their lives. There are a number of causes for these deaths, and while rates have been falling since 2012, there is more that can be done to reduce the number of stillbirths and neonatal deaths.

What GPs can do to help

The circumstances surrounding SANDS are difficult and upsetting. It’s important that those involved in patient care provide the right support to the parents and families affected.

When providing support to bereaved families, there isn’t a set guideline on how things should be done. Listening to concerns and providing advice on coping with grief can help patients navigate their loss, but you should also provide practical help, such as signposting local support groups or referring patients for grief counselling.

In your practice, there are many opportunities to raise awareness of SANDs and the support available. You could take part in fundraising activities to help bring other patients in the community on board and engage your staff in the conversation. By providing literature and putting posters in your practice, you can make patients aware of support that they might not even know existed.

Preventing neonatal deaths

It’s also important that GPs and practice staff provide pregnant women with the best care possible. A number of stillbirths and neonatal deaths can be prevented when potential dangers are caught early. Making sure staff know how to identify the signs of preeclampsia, for example, can help to minimise risks. Mothers with newborns will also require special care, and the right attention should be paid to parents who are concerned about the health of their babies.

SANDS is a difficult topic to discuss, as many people will have experienced their own losses. However, it’s important that you and your practice teams feel confident to help those affected. You can improve your team’s ability to care for patients affected by SANDS  with additional training and awareness sessions, but it all starts by opening up the conversation.

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