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Page last updated at 10:09 GMT, Wednesday, 30 September 2009 11:09 UK
Mother's heartbreak of stillbirth
Donna Yell, from Yeovil
Donna's baby was stillborn at 38 weeks into her pregnancy

The heartbreak and despair of experiencing stillbirth has been highlighted by a mother from Yeovil.

Donna Yell's daughter Matilda was stillborn in January 2009 and post-mortem examinations gave no indication as to why this happened.

According to the Stillbirth and Neonatal Death charity (SANDS) 17 babies are stillborn or die shortly after birth in the UK everyday.

Now Donna is calling for more research to be done into what the causes are.

'Deadly quiet'

Donna Yell had a stillbirth 38 weeks into her second pregnancy, when she felt something wasn't right.

"I couldn't put my finger on it, I couldn't say there was anything in particular that was wrong. I didn't feel 100 percent, so I rang the hospital and they said come up and have a look."

The doctors and nurses started off by checking the baby's heartbeat.

"I wasn't worried that much - I thought I didn't need to be seen immediately so I went up and met Ian [husband] at the hospital and we went up to the ward.

"They put the straps on and do the trace for the baby's heartbeat and the midwife couldn't find anything. It wasn't immediately a problem, the way the baby was lying and sometimes it just happens that way they just can't find it."

After the midwife couldn't find the heartbeat, she called in the doctor to carry out checks instead.

"He came in with another piece of equipment. Everything goes deadly quiet, it's literally that silence where no-one's saying anything and you just know that something has happened, that something has gone wrong."

"We knew then that the baby had gone, but no-one had verbally said so so we had to be taken down to the sonographer (for ultrasound imaging) so we could take a more detailed look and she confirmed that there was no heartbeat and the baby had died."

'Naming ceremony'

Donna had a trouble-free pregnancy and so had no cause to believe this would be in any way different.

She had progressed through each trimester without any problems, and believed that once she had got past the 27 week mark, the chances were the baby would be fine.

Instead, Donna had to deal with the trauma of having an induced labour: a caesarean section was offered but that would have meant a longer recovery time.

"The hospital had organised a special room in the labour unit which I since found out had been funded by the Snowdrop Group. It's a wonderful room, it's very isolated from the labour unit, so you can't hear the labouring women or the other babies or anything like that - it's a very well-equipped room.

"There's a double bed in there that folds down so Ian was able to stay with me all of the time and then it was a case of inducing the labour and getting things started."

The Snowdrop Group is a local group which helps parents going through bereavement and is affiliated to the SANDS charity.

Although this seemed like a cruel thing to go through, Donna says it did give her the chance to be able to go out and buy baby clothes for her daughter.

"I'm grateful now that I did it naturally it meant that the next day Ian and I could got into town to buy Matilda an outfit - I didn't know what she was (a girl).

"We only had white stuff in the hospital bag, I wanted her to have her own clothes- we were able to go to Mothercare and choose her some clothes and we arranged for all our family to come.

"The hospital chaplain did a naming ceremony for us and everybody came to that and Olivia came and met her sister and we took loads of photos - there was no pressure to take her away we were never rushed, and we bathed her and dressed her."

'Scary place to be'

Donna and her husband were offered to have a post-mortem to find why she was stillborn but the reports showed there was no known cause of death.

According to SANDS, in 50 percent of stillbirths or deaths shortly after birth, the cause of death is unknown.

"Thankfully we had some counselling, naturally he thought it was something I'd done, but he also knew that wasn't necessarily true so he's never blamed me.

"It's natural for me to feel that way too; I was carrying her, it's something we try not to think about.

"There was no known cause at the post mortem - if it had been something I'd done or hadn't done they might have been able to say that, because they didn't say that I didn't do anything wrong so that hasn't come between us."

Now Donna is slowly coming to terms with Matilda's death with support from local charity Snowdrops, which helps parents through bereavement.

"I do need a day or so, where I can just sit and cry. Snowdrops is a really good support base, particularly being run by midwives, because they can help with questions and stuff.

"There's a lady at the group who put me in touch with Amanda because she experienced her stillbirth about 13 years ago. It's important to see how people have moved on, and see how families have continued to grow even though something like this has happened."

Soon after Matilda's death, Donna and Ian started trying for another baby and she is now three months pregnant.

"It's a very scary place to be now, whereas before it was eager anticipation and excitement it's kind of tainted a bit now."

"Matilda will always be Olivia's sister and my daughter, she'll always be there as part of our family but hopefully there will be another baby in the future."

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