Carrie Symonds: What is a rainbow baby?

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Carrie Symonds: What is a rainbow baby?
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Carrie Symonds, the wife of prime minister Boris Johnson, announced she is pregnant with their second child over the weekend.

She revealed in a message to friends on her private Instagram feed that she had suffered a miscarriage earlier in the year, which left her “heartbroken”.

Symonds wrote: “Hoping for our rainbow baby this Christmas. At the beginning of the year, I had a miscarriage which left me heartbroken. I feel incredibly blessed to be pregnant again but I’ve also felt like a bag of nerves.”

The couple had their first son together, Wilfred, on 29 April last year.

What is a rainbow baby?

A “rainbow baby” refers to a child expected after the loss of a baby to miscarriage, stillbirth or neonatal birth. The term was coined to represent something beautiful arriving after a storm.

According to parenting website Parents, reproductive endocrinology and infertility specialist Jennifer Kulp-Makarov said it represents “a rainbow after a storm; something beautiful after something scary and dark”.

“It is an extremely emotional and devastating experience to lose a pregnancy [or baby],” she said. “To create a life or bring a baby into the world after such a loss is amazing like a miracle for these parents.”

What is having a rainbow baby like?

According to Healthline, the birth of a rainbow baby often brings about “mixed emotions”. While rainbow babies are often described as “miracle” babies, the pregnancies can also “bring strong feelings of anxiety, guilt, and even fear”.

“Conflicting emotions of honouring a baby who has died while celebrating one that’s healthy – and grieving a loss while celebrating new life – often accompany a rainbow birth,” explains the website.

Sophie King, a midwife with pregnancy charity Tommy’s, said: “Children born after loss are often called ‘rainbow babies’ to symbolise hope and light after a dark time, but it’s important to remember that a rainbow doesn’t erase the storm that came before it, which can make pregnancy and parenting after loss very challenging.

“Any expectant or new parent may struggle with anxiety, but it can be very hard for those who have lost babies to believe that won’t happen again, or they may feel guilty for being excited about a new arrival while grieving a sibling.”

She recommends that families grappling with these issues connect with networks such as Tommy’s Parenting After Loss group, and seek healthcare professionals for extra support.

“Talk to someone you’re close to, or release emotions into a journal, but don’t keep things in; asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness, so reach out for support if you need it,” she added. “Grief, pregnancy and parenting are all very tiring so take it a day at a time and be kind to yourself.”

What are the figures on pregnancy loss in the UK?

Data from Tommy’s shows an estimated one in four pregnancies end in loss during pregnancy or birth in the UK.

An estimated one in five pregnancies ended in miscarriage in 2019, with around 250,000 miscarriages taking place every year in the UK.

Most miscarriages (around 85 per cent) occur during the first trimester, which means the first 12 weeks of a pregnancy. A ‘late’ miscarriage, which is much less common, may occur between weeks 13 to 24 of pregnancy.

What did Carrie Symonds say about her miscarriage?

In her Instagram post, Symonds said she wanted to share her experience in hopes it would help other people.

She wrote: “Fertility issues can be really hard for many people, particularly when on platforms like Instagram it can look like everything is only ever going well.

“I found it a real comfort to hear from people who had also experienced loss so I hope that in some very small way sharing this might help others too.”

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