Overcoming the stigma of a stillborn in the BAME communities
Updated: May 26
Sharon Manatsa (left): “It’s about finding a space to be able to talk and grieve"
In the UK on average 8 babies are stillborn every day. For some the grief is compounded by stigma as Sharon Manatsa tells Megan Samrai
Sharon Manatsa’s son Melkiah was stillborn in 2016. “I found it difficult to grieve because of my community’s cultural beliefs. I was asked: “Why are you talking about it?” I was told: “You are bringing shame. You need to move on carry on as normal. You can always have another one.” Ms Manasta recalls feeling fearful of judgment and being perceived as weak.
A mental health nurse, she resolved to break the stigma and “be the voice for the silenced”. This led to the founding of The Melkiah Foundation. “It’s about finding a space to be able to talk and grieve. Women need to understand stillbirth is not their fault.”
Women need to understand stillbirth is not their fault
Ms Manasta will be a panellist in the Any Questions session at the upcoming BAME Birthing with Colour Conference. The open and unscripted nature of the discussion matches the open ethos of The Melkiah foundation. “I want to address the ways people can move on from this without forgetting to appreciate the experience in the hope that someone else’s experience can be improved.”
Ms Manatsa will also use the platform to share suggestions on bereavement care. “Hearing the news of stillbirth is made even more traumatic when you are surrounded by other expectant mothers and babies in the same room.
In some cultures you are only expected to speak when you are spoken to
"Overall my hope is more research is conducted into the causes of stillbirth. Expectant mothers must not be afraid to ask their midwives questions – a lesson I took into my second pregnancy which made it a more reassuring experience. In some cultures you are only expected to speak when you are spoken to. The silenced need to be supported in finding their voice.”
About Sharon Manatsa
Sharon Manatsa was born in Zimbabwe, moving to the UK at the age of 11. A mental health nurse, Ms Manatsa recently became primary mental health team leader for the Hertfordshire Partnership Foundation Trust. Ms Manatsa is the founder of The Melkiah Foundation.
About BAME Maternity Birthing With Colour
BAME Maternity Birthing With Colour is a one day conference organised by registered charity The Brun Bear Foundation in association with a top team of healthcare professionals led by Helen Knower, Director of Midwifery, Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust.
The conference’s objectives are to draw together medical professionals, policy makers, the third sector, community groups and mothers themselves for an outstanding programme that helps shape, deliver, direct and influence higher standards of BAME Maternity care.
Proceeds from the day – which is being organised on an entirely voluntary basis – will support relevant medical and other causes.
For more information including speaking, attendance, sponsorship, media and supporting organisation opportunities please email email@example.com
To secure your ticket please visit www.bamematernity.com
Author: Megan Samrai
Subeditor: Edwin Lampert