A MIDWIFE at Tommy's explains how to be there for friends and family coping with the death of a baby – while experts also explain how to support those with perinatal depression.

Cristiano Ronaldo and his partner Georgina Rodriguez have announced the death of their baby son.

The Northern Echo:

A statement on social media read: "It is with our deepest sadness we have to announce that our baby boy has passed away. It is the greatest pain that any parent can feel.

"Only the birth of our baby girl gives us the strength to live this moment with some hope and happiness. We would like to thank the doctors and nurses for all their expert care and support.

"We are all devastated at this loss and we kindly ask for privacy at this very difficult time. Our baby boy, you are our angel. We will always love you."

Ronaldo, 37, and Rodriguez, 28, announced in October 2021 that they were expecting twins. The Manchester United player has an 11-year-old son from a previous relationship, he had twins via a surrogate mother in 2017, and shares a daughter with Rodriguez, born in 2017. Their new baby girl brings the blended family to five children.

According to data gathered by the Office for National Statistics, in 2020 the neonatal mortality rate in England and Wales (the number of babies who died before they reached 28 days) was 2.7 deaths per 1,000 live births.

Juliette Ward, midwife at Tommy's (tommys.org), says what Ronaldo and Rodriguez are experiencing is "one of the most complex kinds of grief" - because they're navigating "the joy of welcoming their little baby girl [alongside] the grief of losing their baby boy".

She describes losing a baby as "a kind of grief like no other" affecting parents and the wider family physically and emotionally. So how can you support a loved one in a similar situation?

There is one important thing to understand, Ward explains. "This isn't something that can be fixed. The only thing you can offer is making sure the family know they're not alone in their loss."

She says a common experience bereaved parents have is people avoiding speaking about the baby, as they "don't want to make anything worse".

But, she says: "When it comes to baby loss, there isn't a 'making things worse' - the worst has happened. But what can add to parents' sadness and distress is feeling their baby is forgotten."

They actually might interpret silence as "people aren't remembering us, or people don't care," she adds.

She recommends keeping lines of communication open, by saying things like: "We're thinking of you, if there's anything we can do, we're here for you."

The key, Ward says, is to be present, to show them that you are there for them. "It's a very profound grief, the loss of a baby - so being alone in that makes it worse. You can't really make it better, but offering some contact is much better than no contact."

Tommy's recommend going at the parents' pace but say it's OK to talk about the baby. If it feels appropriate you could ask what name the parents chose and why, what the baby weighed, if they had any hair or any of the parents features.

However, there are some things that are best to avoid mentioning. Ward recommends not saying phases like, 'You can always try again', 'At least you have other children', or 'There's always a reason'.

Starting sentences with "at least" doesn't make sense in the context of the loss of a baby, she says.

Consider practical support you could offer too. When a baby dies neonatally it cam overshadow the fact that the mum is physically recovering from pregnancy and birth, the charity say. Depending on your relationship, you could offer to look after other children they have, cook some meals or do some housework.

Grief for a baby will stay with the parents every day, even if they learn to live with it. They may still need support years into the future - particularly around anniversaries or milestones. You could make a note of important dates that might affect them and try and check in with them around that time.

Ward extends her sympathies to Ronaldo and Rodriguez, who are processing their loss publicly. "Baby loss is a reality that sadly affects many families, and the more we can have a conversation [around these issues] the more we will learn together to support families," she says.

Britney Spears appears to have announced she's pregnant with her third child in an Instagram post.

The singer, 40, describes gaining weight and thinking she was "food pregnant" after a trip to Maui, but after taking a pregnancy test she says she discovered she was "having a baby."

The mum-of-two posted: "It's hard because when I was pregnant I had perinatal depression... I have to say it is absolutely horrible...

"Women didn't talk about it back then... Some people considered it dangerous if a woman complained like that with a baby inside her... But now women talk about it every day."

Spears became engaged to fitness model partner Sam Asghari in September 2021, and a 13-year conservatorship came to an end the following November.

She has two children, Sean Preston, 16, and Jayden James, 15, with ex-husband Kevin Federline, and testified in court that the conservatorship prevented her from having more children.

Following Spears' announcement, Asghari posted on Instagram: "Marriage and kids are a natural part of a strong relationship filled with love and respect. Fatherhood is something I have always looked forward to and I don't take lightly. It is the most important job I will ever do."

According to a review by the Centre for Mental Health, between 10 and 20% of women experience perinatal mental illness.

Here's everything you need to know.

What is it?

While postnatal depression occurs during the first year after giving birth, "perinatal depression can occur at any point between becoming pregnant and up to one year after your child is born," explains Cheryl Lythgoe, matron at Benenden Health (benenden.co.uk), although she says there is evidence that "parents can suffer for up to three years after birth".

She says: "Feeling anxious or tearful in the first few days after birth is common. It's often called the 'baby blues' and doesn't tend to last more than a couple of weeks. If symptoms last longer - or start later - it could be postnatal depression."

What are the symptoms?

There are a wide range of symptoms of perinatal ill health, says Lythgoe, citing "anxiety, feeling low and not enjoying your pregnancy, a loss of self confidence, avoiding socialising, obsessive compulsive disorder and a lack of energy" as some of the most common.

She says mixed emotions are common for parents - because "pregnancy and birth are big milestones" - but "if you find the way you feel starts to impact your life every day, you could be suffering from perinatal mental illness".

The charity Mind list feeling restless, agitated or irritable, guilty, worthless, empty, numb, tearful, unable to relate to other people, finding no pleasure in life, a sense of unreality, hopeless and despairing, hostile or indifferent to your partner, hostile or indifferent to your baby, and suicidal feelings, as symptoms too.

Are there any misconceptions around perinatal depression?

"It's not just new mums who suffer," Lythgoe suggests. "Dads can be affected by perinatal depression too, so it's worth being aware and watching out for the signs."

How can you seek help?

Lythgoe's top piece of advice for anyone who thinks they might be struggling with perinatal depression is to be "open and honest - not only with yourself, but also with your family and clinical care team, as looking after your mental wellbeing is just as important as looking after your physical health".

Speak to your GP if you have any concerns, or you could get in contact with perinatal mental health support charity PANDAS (pandasfoundation.org.uk) either via their website or their free helpline on 0808 1961 776.

"During the perinatal period, using psychological therapies is a great way to support mental wellbeing," says Lythgoe. Anyone with existing mental health concerns may be at a higher risk when they fall pregnant, and in this case she recommends pre-conception counselling and support.

Lythgoe advises: "As well as getting help from the professionals, there are a few things you can try to help ease your symptoms, including talking to your family and friends about your feelings, accepting help, enjoying some 'me time', exercising, eating healthily whilst not missing meals, and avoiding alcohol and drugs."

Anyone with suicidal feelings can contact Samaritans 24-hours a day for free on 116 123.

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