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Radio’s The Archers raises awareness of late miscarriage

A leading bereavement charity has advised scriptwriters over a heartbreaking storyline about miscarriage, on long-running radio drama The Archers.

Listeners to the Radio 4 programme were devastated when characters Kirsty Miller and Tom Archer lost their baby in the fifth month of Kirsty’s pregnancy. Doctors were unable to save the child – a son – when they broke the news she was undergoing a late miscarriage.

The BBC has said that it had consulted with Tommy’s, a charity which supports parents who lose a baby during pregnancy, while working on the scripts.

Since the emotional episode unfolded, the drama has continued to focus on the bereaved parents, as well as wider family members and friends as they grieve.

In the past, The Archers’ radio format has enabled its storylines to develop in episodes over realistic periods of time. It has won plaudits for its portrayal of affecting and identifiable situations, including the gradual decline and eventual death of much-loved regular Jack Woolley, who suffered from dementia. More recently, it has raised awareness of domestic abuse, focused around much-talked about character Rob Titchener’s coercive control of wife Helen.

A spokesperson for the BBC said: “Throughout the show’s history The Archers has dealt with difficult issues and we consult a range of experts when developing these storylines.”

This time around, the drama will be focused upon Kirsty and Tom, who are no longer in a relationship, as they take in the devastating reality of what has happened and cope with their grief.

Listeners heard Tom trying to come to terms with his feelings, as he compared the grief for his unborn baby with the loss he felt after the death of his older brother.

He said: “This is different. It’s not like when John died. Then, we could all remember him, talk about him, but now it’s like an agony we’ll never know, a life that won’t be lived.

“I keep wondering what colour hair he would have had, or whether he’d be into trains or superheroes. I’ll never know.”

A spokesperson from Tommy’s told Funeral Guide: “We helped them with the tone and content of the storyline to be accurate and as ‘real life’ as possible, making suggestions to words and phrases.

“Professor Andrew Shennan, clinical director of Tommy’s Prematurity Clinic at St Thomas’, London also spoke with the programme researchers about how he consults with women and couples who have experienced late miscarriage.”

Late miscarriage is the term used when an unborn baby dies between 12 and 24 weeks into a pregnancy, a developmental stage known as the second trimester. Around 200,000 people in the UK lose a baby through miscarriage every year according to Tommy’s, which launched its National Early Miscarriage Centre in 2016. This will enable 24,000 women to access treatment and support every year.

Besides its research into preventing miscarriage, Tommy’s also supports those who have experienced the death of a stillborn baby and is also at the forefront of work to improve the outcomes of premature births, which are termed as such when a baby is delivered earlier than 37 weeks.

The BBC has launched its own Actionline for listeners affected by the issues raised in the drama, which looks set to be an important part of the characters’ storylines for months and even years to come.

If you or someone you know has been affected by a miscarriage, Funeral Guide’s Help and Resources pages have details of helpful bereavement support and counselling organisations as well as tools and resources for coping with grief, or supporting a friend or family member through bereavement.

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