The Pregnancy & Infant Loss Support Centre (PILSC) is a steadily fast growing registered charity that is meeting an untapped need for specialized bereavement mental health support for families who have experienced miscarriage, stillbirth, neonatal death, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Since March 2020 PILSC has seen a 300% increase in clients accessing our supports. When the COVID-19 Pandemic began, the Mental Health Program quickly pivoted to offer remote access. This pivot has allowed the Centre to reach bereaved families in every community across Alberta, with a large increase in rural areas.
The Pregnancy & Infant Loss Support Centre is vital in helping to redirect the current Mental Health crisis in Canada. Each person impacted by loss is vulnerable to long term mental health challenges. The Centre’s programming is approaching the challenges faced by bereaved families in the following unique and innovative ways:
The Pregnancy & Infant Loss Support Centre understands how difficult it is for families who have experienced the trauma of pregnancy and infant loss to access mental health support. We are requesting funding to be able to continue to offer free, remote, specialized mental health support to families who have been impacted by miscarriage, stillbirth, neonatal death or SIDS and otherwise may not be able to access or afford it. Funds will be used to build capacity and meet the increased demand for specialized bereavement mental health support.
Karen & Jeff’s Story
Karen was due to welcome her first child last year. She and her partner, Jeff had carefully designed their baby boy’s nursery, had installed the car seat, and had washed and organized all of his clothes. Karen, Jeff, their family and friends were all excited to finally meet the little boy that had been growing inside Karen and their hearts for the last 39 weeks.
Two days before Karen’s estimated due date she woke up to an awful feeling. She could not feel her son’s movement inside of her. He was always active in the morning so Karen went into the hospital “just to be safe”. When the doctor arrived, Karen and Jeff heard the words no parents should ever hear,
“there is no heartbeat. Your baby has died”.
After 15 hours of labor, Karen birthed their baby boy, Adam silently into the world.
The weeks that followed Adam’s birth and death were some of the darkest the couple had faced. Karen’s breast milk came in, her body was ready to feed a baby that did not come home. She felt empty. She isolated herself in fear of being asked unanswerable questions about her baby who had passed away. Flashbacks to Adam’s traumatic birth and leaving the hospital without her baby kept her awake at night. During the day she stayed home, not knowing what her purpose, in a world without her son, was. Jeff was growing angry as he questioned his Faith—what God would take their son before he had a chance to live? Jeff had to go back to work, where there was little to no acknowledgement of the trauma he and Karen had experienced.
Both Karen and Jeff were experiencing debilitating anxiety and their mental health plummeted. They began to experience tension in their relationship, not knowing how to process their trauma, grief, and shame without blaming themselves or each other.
Neither Karen nor Jeff wanted to go back to a hospital setting to receive support—the thought of returning to a hospital was far too painful .A few weeks later, the couple were referred to the Pregnancy & Infant Loss Support Centre and because the Centre was not at a hospital they both felt at ease to access it.
They attended a peer support group for parents who do not have living children. In the safety of the Centre both Karen and Jeff were met with empathy, love, acknowledgment and community support. They were able to speak Adam’s name and hear from others who had experienced similar fates. They also accessed several counseling sessions at the Centre together. The sessions helped the couple build their relationship with each other as well as their own individual resiliency. Karen was able to attend a friend’s baby shower recently, something that only months earlier had given her panic attacks thinking about.
Both Karen and Jeff have continued to access the Centre. Their relationship has thrived and with the help of community, specialized groups and counseling, the couple feel like they have developed healthier coping strategies for their parenting journey ahead.
Sadly, Karen and Jeff’s story is not unique. The number of individuals and families that are impacted by pregnancy and infant loss is vast. Research estimates that 40% of all conceptions result in loss.
The mental health impacts are deep.
Researchers at Imperial College London and KU Leuven in Belgium found that 29% of birthing people who experienced a pregnancy loss, had PTSD symptoms one month after that loss. Additionally, 24% of these individuals had anxiety, and 11% had moderate to severe depression one month after pregnancy loss.
Comparatively, of the people who delivered healthy babies, 13% reported having moderate to severe anxiety month after giving birth.
The study also found the individuals who had PTSD, depression, or anxiety after pregnancy loss said their symptoms continued for long periods of time, ranging from three months to nine months after the loss
One study (CNN, 2010) reported: compared with couples who had successful pregnancies, those who had a miscarriage were 22 % more likely to break up, and those who experienced a stillbirth were 40% more likely to do so
What We Do Differently:
Through Choice, We Empower
The Pregnancy & Infant Loss Support Centre is a Registered Charity in Calgary whose mission is to connect bereaved families to community, an acute crisis helpline, peer support groups, traditional and alternative healing supports, and educational opportunities. We offer choice in support offerings so that people can choose what path is right for them.
“What the PILSC team is doing is nothing short of breathtaking. Their kindness is incredible as is their strength and determination to bring change. There are angels who walk among us”
“I felt understood, validated and supported. I am grateful that everyone shared their stories and chatted tonight, I am thankful to have met you all”
“My husband and I started meeting with Aditi in July after the loss of our daughter Lyla. After such a devastating loss, we really weren’t sure how we could get through it. Aditi has been amazing in coaching us through our grief and helping us learn things about ourselves that we didn’t know were there. She has shown us that it takes strength to grieve, and taught us ways to honour our daughter along the way. Our meetings with Aditi have not only helped us individually, but have really strengthened our marriage as well. We look forward to continuing our sessions as we build our family” ~M & J
We have 5 programming streams:
Professional 1:1 Support
Mission: Provide personalized professional mental health support through all stages of the journey while acknowledging trauma and mental health as an individual journey.
Talk therapy/Counseling: grief counseling, trying to conceive, pregnant again, parenting after loss
Somatic Therapies: moving stored trauma through the body
Mission: Connect individuals nationwide who are experiencing acute crisis to immediate, and anonymous peer support through text or online live chat
Reduces barriers for families in rural areas who are further from support
Mission: Connect people to community in specific stages of the journey
Group Peer Support: We offer 7 specialized peer support groups:
Education: Community at Large
Mission: to bring awareness, advocate and further the conversations about the trauma and mental health impacts of pregnancy and infant loss to the community at large (support people, service providers, and employers)
Mission: Provide diverse communities (diverse ethnic/culture groups, abilities, faiths, sexual orientations and gender identities) access to grief support while addressing the intersections of their trauma by partnering with other agencies
As a registered charity, we rely solely on the generous donations of our community partners, grants and volunteered time to run our programming.
Your contributions will ensure the comprehensive care to this community we are providing will continue and expand.
Our highest priority is to expand our Journey through Grief: Mental Health Program. The Journey through Grief program has seen a large increase in clients accessing the program over the past year. Currently our mental health practitioners are fully booked. In order to continue to offer this vital (and clearly needed) support we are requesting: Program Cost is $150, 000.
Other ways you can help:
Your generosity helps reduce the isolation, stigma and mental health challenges individuals and families experience after pregnancy or infant loss. By donating, you are helping to provide options that support individual healing, so people can heal in their own way, and on their own terms.