The Duchess of Cambridge visited Imperial College in London to hear about research into the loss of babies in pregnancy and premature births

By Simon Perry
October 14, 2020 12:12 PM
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Kate Middleton
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Kate Middleton made a surprise outing on Wednesday to meet with families and hear about research work into miscarriage, stillbirth and premature birth.

The mom of three followed up her virtual appearance at an awards ceremony on Tuesday evening by heading out to a top university in London to see how a charity, Tommy’s, is battling to reduce the rates of deaths during pregnancies and premature births.

The visit to the Institute of Reproductive and Development Biology at Imperial College London came during Baby Loss Awareness Week, which aims to provide connection, recognition and commemoration for bereaved parents. A quarter of parents in the U.K. suffer baby loss during pregnancy or birth and Tommy's helps to fund research into the causes.

At the university, Kate, 38, spoke with families about their experiences of baby loss and the lasting impact it has had on their lives. Staff from Tommy’s and another charity, Sands, that provides support to bereaved parents, told Kate about the importance of emotional support for bereaved parents and the whole family and the practical help they offer to anyone affected.

Kate Middleton
| Credit: Shutterstock

Kate, who wore a mask during the visit, talked with a specialist midwife, who is trained to help mothers through the traumatic time of having a stillbirth. One woman, Clare Wogan, told her how the loss of her baby girl, Alice, who was stillborn, inspired her to become a midwife. Wogan recounted how she spent three days in the hospital in Manchester after Alice was born in September 2017.

“We spent those three days cramming in a lifetime’s worth of memories,” she said. “When she was born, she was absolutely perfect. Her birth was literally the best thing that ever happened to me. And also the worst thing that ever happened to me."

“When we went home our lives had been turned upside down. We had been devastated," she continued. “A week after Alice’s funeral I decided I wanted to become a midwife, because the care I received was so amazing. I wanted to do what they had done for me.”

Kate Middleton
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“It is difficult for anyone to know what to say when a baby dies. But it is really hard for doctors and midwives,” she explained. “Alice literally changed my life. I feel her short little life is having quite a big impact.”

Kate sympathized and said, “It’s so brave of you to be able to talk so openly. A lot of the research, a lot of the support for organizations, is being driven by parents who have been through this experience, and want to help others. It is so inspirational.”

The parents that Kate met had gone on to have children after experiencing previous pregnancy loss, and their children were on hand for Kate to spend time with them. They had all been born thanks to specialist care at Tommy’s research clinics.

Kate Middleton
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Obiélé Laryea, 37, and her partner Nii-Addy, 40, had two late miscarriages before she went to Tommy’s and found herself under the care of Professor Andrew Shennan at St Thomas’s Hospital, Kate was told.

Obiélé said that when she was pregnant previously, after her first miscarriage, doctors initially refused her request to have a cervical stitch to prevent another one. “Let’s wait and see,” they said. When they finally did, it was too late, she said.

Obiélé told reporters that Kate was “quite thrown” that she was allowed to have a second miscarriage. “You could almost see it in her face, ‘Are you OK?’ I’m fine. I sometimes think to myself, if I hadn’t had the second miscarriage, I would not have heard about Tommy’s.”

Kate Middleton
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In addition to raising funds for pioneering medical research, Tommy's also helps women at every stage of their pregnancy journey, supporting them with expert information and care.

At the center’s laboratories, Princess Kate also spoke to medical experts about their ground-breaking work to understand the science behind why stillbirths and premature births happen and what can be done to prevent it. She was also told about the trials that are currently taking place at the research center, which aims to better understand the risks of the coronavirus to pregnant women and their babies.

Kate Middleton
| Credit: Shutterstock

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Kate has made parenting and the challenges of family life a central area of her public life. She has helped raise awareness of the mental health difficulties of moms and carers, and their children, and has also helped support those struggling with addiction.