October 15 is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day. The occasion
was ushered into existence in 2006 largely on the shoulders of Robyn Bear,
who endured six first-trimester miscarriages between 1997 and 1999 before
she was ultimately diagnosed with balanced translocation, a genetic abnormality
that can affect fertility.
Established to educate, create awareness and show support for those who
have suffered a miscarriage, still birth or the loss of an infant, the
day is observed nationwide with remembrance ceremonies and candle-lighting
vigils. Everyone is to participate in the International Wave of Light
by lighting a candle at 7:00 p.m. local time to honor and remember the
babies who have been lost.
As many as 20 percent of confirmed pregnancies are lost, though the actual
rate is likely higher because most miscarriages occur in the first trimester,
before many women realize they’re pregnant. The loss of a pregnancy
or child can not only have psychological effects, it can stigmatize and
In an effort to ensure that every parent receives the support they need
during their darkest hour, Mary Washington Healthcare established a bereavement
and palliative care program in 2005, led by a certified perinatal loss
care nurse. Families can self-refer to the program, or be referred by
We also provide perinatal bereavement support services, which include:
- Onsite bereavement support and referrals
- A dedicated perinatal-loss support nurse, who can answer many of your questions
- Healing Through Support, a small and supportive group where attendees are
welcome to be open with their feelings in a safe and respected environment
- A free library of books on the subject
These services are available to everyone in the community, regardless of
the gestational stage of the loss and whether the loss occurred at another
place or time. They’re also available to bereaved grandparents.
Losing a pregnancy or a child triggers a cascade of painful thoughts and
emotions. It’s natural to think in those initial moments that no
one else could possibly understand that pain. But the key to surviving
such a tragedy and beginning to heal is seeking support, confiding in
a family member, a close friend, or a trained professional.
If you’ve miscarried, had a stillbirth, or lost a child, know that
you are not alone.
To learn more about our support services, contact our perinatal bereavement
coordinator, Tammy Ruiz, RN BSN, CPLC, at 540.741.3268 or