Don't forget, it was my baby too: Fathers as well as mothers feel grief when an unborn baby dies. Four such men talk to David Cohen

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The Independent Online
EVERY year, more than 200,000 British men father pregnancies that end in abortion, miscarriage or stillbirth. Yet little attention is devoted to how they cope with the loss.

In the case of abortion, a father-to-be has no rights in law over his unborn baby and his partner can terminate the pregnancy without even telling him. And whether he consents to the abortion or not, he can expect little support from the abortion agencies.

The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), the largest private provider of legal abortions in the country, includes counselling for women as part of its service. But the charge for counselling men is pounds 30 a session, over and above the cost of the abortion.

When I called the BPAS as a member of the public, the voice on the other end said: 'We don't counsel men. If a woman chooses her man to be there, then we'll see her on her own first and he can join in later. But our help is directed at the woman. It's the woman's body, a woman's issue and a woman's right to choose.'

When it comes to miscarriage and stillbirth, the exclusion of the father begins with the medical practitioners. Their attention is focused on the mother, of necessity, but often fathers are barred access from the birth of the dead foetus and then ignored, as if they have no direct involvement with the lost baby.

Care agencies, friends and family typically expect the father to be strong and supportive of his partner. He may want to cry, break down and show his pain and sadness - the normal and healthy symptoms of grief - but his designated role requires him to suppress his emotions.

The stories of these four men are evidence of the bonding that can occur between men and their unborn babies. Their loss has had a long- term impact on their lives, affecting their relationships and careers, and leading to a re-evaluation of their identity as men.