21/01/2022 | Press releases

Rainbow baby clinic offers support for families expecting again

Losing a baby is devastating, but the pain and worry doesn’t disappear when a family is expecting again.

To help support mums-to-be a specialist clinic has been running at Ipswich Hospital as part of a research study, with regular scans, the same clinical team and on-hand reassurance should the family need it.

The rainbow clinic is run by Dr Nishigandh Deole and bereavement midwife Ali Brett, who ensure the same team so they have continuous care throughout their pregnancies. They see the parent-to-be every three to four weeks or more for a scan and a face-to-face appointment to discuss any medical concerns, birth choices and talk about any emotional worries too.

Luanne Herrington
Luanne and partner Lee with Reau

Luanne Herrington lost her baby girl River in 2018 when she was 20 weeks pregnant. Luanne, who already had son Rory, became pregnant again in 2019 and gave birth to Reau, now two, and then again this year with baby Rockie, born in September.

Luanne, a horse-riding instructor, was supported through her pregnancies through the rainbow clinic.

Baby Rockie born in September

The 28-year-old said: “It was very reassuring, as if you were worried, you knew a scan wasn’t that far away. You dread them too of course. I had times when I was worried about movements, but I’d speak to Ali and she would check the heartbeat. They always said if I was worried to get in touch. I felt so supported.

“They know what you’ve been through, so you don’t have to keep going over your story and what happened. I’d recommend anyone in a similar position to go to the rainbow clinic too.”

The clinic is also part of a research study with the Tommy’s National Rainbow clinic study, a specialist antenatal service for women and families following a stillbirth or neonatal death, and is a five-year study initiated by University of Manchester and led by Professor Alexander Heazell.

Midwife Ali Brett
Ali Brett

Midwife Ali Brett said: “We see a lot of women who are high risk, often from gestational diabetes or other medical conditions. We offer three weekly appointments from 23 weeks gestation to monitor the placenta and growth of the baby.

“The appointments are also about a person’s mental health – to offer support and make sure they know they can contact us if they need to. We work closely with community midwives too.”

Dr Deole, consultant for obstetric and fetal medicine, said the clinic is a huge benefit for people who are expecting a baby after a loss.

Dr Nishigandh Deole
Dr Nishigandh Deole

He added: “Women who see us are under a lot of stress, so seeing the same people is reassuring. We really want to give them the best care we can. It is a holistic approach about all aspects of the person and the care they need throughout pregnancy. We know the mental health issues can be difficult too.”

The Rainbow Clinic is part of a research study over five years and the Research Team at ESNEFT helped support setting up the project. Dr Deole said the information gained can also help us to understand why people may have had a loss.

With Luanne, when she lost River the placenta was sent off to be looked at, alongside various blood tests taken from them both. It was discovered the condition CHI (Chronic Histiocytic Intervillositis) was present which is a placental condition affecting the growth and development of the baby.

Tina Higgins and family
Tina, James and their two rainbow babies Hermione and newborn Isabella

For mum-of-two Tina Higgins the clinic offered a lot of emotional support when she lost her baby son Sebastian at 27 weeks’ gestation. He was stillborn. Tina, said it was a devastating time for her and husband James.

When she fell pregnant again – with Hermione who is now two – she said she felt anxious about the chance of it happening again.

Tina Higgins' baby Isabella
Newborn Isabella

Tina, who works as head of claims and capability development at a major insurance company, said: “I was petrified. Really really worried.”

Tina was supported by Ali and Dr Deole, and again when she was pregnant with her daughter Isabella, who was born in September. “The care I received was incredible and they were bothered about my mental wellbeing too. No concern was too much, and I was never viewed as being overly worried.

“Ali and Dr Deole were so thorough – he went through every single scan in such detail to make me feel really reassured.

“I wasn’t panicked and I really trusted him. It was all just so reassuring, and when he moved my c-section date I wasn’t worried – I knew he was making the decision for the right reason.”

Tina Higgins and newborn Isabella
Tina with baby Isabella born in September

Dad Gary Cutt also said the Rainbow Clinic was a huge support. Gary and partner Laura Allen lost their first baby Scarlett at term, seven years ago. The couple had their rainbow baby Hermione in November.

He said: “When we lost Scarlett, the grief physically hurt me, and Laura mentally blocked out a lot of it.

“No amount of time is enough to get over the loss. You mourn not only the loss of the child, but the loss of their future, the life they never will have. To take the decision to try for another is a monumental one. One which is never taken lightly.

“The approach Ali and Dr Deole had with us is not only essential but needed in situations such as ours. It’s an inspiration and the perfect example of the love of their work and compassion for those who they work with.”

Couples who have lost a baby after 24 weeks gestation or in the early neonatal period are eligible to join The Tommy’s National Rainbow Clinic Study, they can speak to the community midwife or consultant for a referral.

The Rainbow Clinic study is running at Ipswich Hospital and Ali Brett and maternity bereavement officer are also a support for any family who have experienced the loss of a baby, whatever the gestation. There is also a bereavement midwife and support available at Colchester Hospital.

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