Stillbirth Stories is an audio archive funded by Wellcome. It is a unique collection of interviews with parents and clinicians talking about their experiences of stillbirth. We believe the opportunity to listen to and share in people’s stories, told in their own words, will engage others with this taboo subject in a way that statistics and facts alone cannot.
These personal and professional recordings will create a resource for those directly affected by the experience: an alternative peer support for bereaved parents and their families and a learning resource for professionals. Some of the parent interviewees’ experiences date back five decades to the 1960s whilst others are from the present day. There are 17 interviews with parents and five with clinicians (from student midwife to senior obstetric consultant).
In 2015, one in every 227 babies delivered in the UK was stillborn: a baby born with no signs of life after 24 weeks of pregnancy. It can conservatively be estimated that more than a third of a million women living in the UK today have experienced a stillbirth; with an even greater number of bereaved fathers, family members and friends all affected by the experience.
There is a genuine gap in the documentation of people’s experiences of stillbirth and a need to create a permanent record, otherwise the insight they offer will be lost. The testimonies featured in the Stillbirth Stories archive are authentic, compelling and poignant and illustrate the impact stillbirth can have personally and professionally. They also give a sense of perspective from within different communities and over time.
History of the Project
As former television producers, our initial instinct was to explore the impact of stillbirth through a filmed documentary. During our research we interviewed bereaved parents and were struck by the power of their personal testimonies. We began searching existing archives for voices and experiences and discovered a void of audio/visual documentation on the subject.
We found one filmed recording of journalist Bel Mooney interviewed by Sheila Hancock talking about the stillbirth of her son, Tom, in 1975. We were both struck by the relevance of her words despite the period of time that had passed since they were recorded. You can watch ‘Stillbirth’ (1978) online here courtesy of CTVC:
Details of the film http://collections-search.bfi.org.uk/web/Details/ChoiceFilmWorks/150097846
We applied to Wellcome for funding to create an online oral history archive to record and collate the personal testimonies of bereaved parents and clinicians.
The archive is accessible to all online. In time we hope to secure funding to increase the number of testimonies in the archive – including more voices from the last 50 years, to offer insight into changes in maternity and bereavement care. We are starting to animate some of the edited audio clips – to be shared via social media – and are working with professional bodies, NHS England, charities and organisations to make use of the archive to inform debate and policy around best care practices for bereaved families.