Ben and Marina Fogle’s son Willem was tragically stillborn in 2017 at 33 weeks
A TV presenter and his wife are highlighting the vital work of a baby loss charity.
Ben and Marina Fogle star in a new film about the pioneering pregnancy research by charity Tommy’s, which airs on BBC1 this Saturday (27 February) at 1.15pm, having sadly found themselves among the one in four parents who personally experience baby loss.
Broadcaster and writer Ben, 47, and antenatal class teacher Marina, 42, were heartbroken by a miscarriage in 2008 before having their son Ludo in 2009 and daughter Iona in 2011. The couple’s son Willem was then tragically stillborn in 2017 at 33 weeks. That led the Fogles to Tommy’s, the UK’s biggest charity funding research to find out why pregnancy goes wrong and how this can be prevented, who they’re supporting with their new BBC film.
Opening up about their personal experience of baby loss, Marina said: “I was 33 weeks pregnant when I suddenly fell ill. At the hospital, I started bleeding heavily, so I was rushed in for an emergency caesarean. Our son Willem was stillborn. Initially, I was in shock and very ill; I met our son, I held him, but I was feeling very numb. It was three or four days later that the tears came. It was incredibly sad, the realisation that the baby we’d prepared for was never coming home. At the time, we had no idea that 1 in 4 pregnancies end in loss during pregnancy or birth – a frankly terrifying statistic. That’s why Ben and I support Tommy’s.
“I was lucky to survive the placental abruption that killed my son. While trying to recover emotionally and physically, I found exercising really cathartic, which is how I ended up running a half marathon for Tommy’s. As soon as I heard their ground-breaking research was already having a significant effect on saving babies’ lives, I had to get involved. I hope my support for Tommy’s will ensure that my children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren will become parents in a world where baby loss is extremely unlikely to affect them in the way it has me. It comforts me to know that, thanks to Tommy’s pioneering research, other families will not have to experience the heartbreak we did.”
Explaining more about why the couple made the film, Ben added: “One in four pregnancies end in miscarriage, stillbirth or premature birth – and shockingly, most parents never find out why. The truth is that so much pregnancy loss could be prevented, but we need more research to improve care; that’s why I’m a huge advocate for Tommy’s and it’s a charity very close to my heart. Across the UK, Tommy's dedicated researchers, doctors, nurses and midwives are finding causes and treatments to save babies’ lives. More research will make pregnancy safer and healthier for everyone and save babies’ lives. Together, we can make it happen.”
Families from all over the country share their heart-breaking stories alongside the Fogles in the new BBC film – but happily they also explain how they’ve all gone on to bring home healthy babies, thanks to specialist care and support from Tommy’s. The charity runs a network of clinics across the UK where its cutting-edge research is put into practice to help make pregnancy safer for parents at risk of losing their babies. For example, Obiélé Laryea came to the Tommy’s premature birth experts in London for a cervical stitch to protect her son Tetteh-Kwei after her daughters were born too soon to survive, and Katherine Miles had four losses before joining a research trial with Tommy’s recurrent miscarriage team in the West Midlands that brought her daughter Sietske into the world.
Also appearing in the new BBC film is Professor Alexander Heazell, who Marina Fogle met when she visited Tommy’s Maternal and Fetal Health Research Centre in Manchester to learn more about his team’s pioneering stillbirth prevention efforts there.
Prof Heazell said: “For many years, the idea of baby loss as ‘one of those things’ meant no one asked why; that left us starting from basics, so research has a lot of catching up to do in comparison with other areas of medicine. In a way, the taboo is similar to that surrounding cancer 50 years ago – without discussion of signs and symptoms, people didn’t come forward early enough to save lives. Lifting that taboo is critical.”
The film will be repeated on BBC2 at 3.10pm on Tuesday 2 March and available to watch all month on iPlayer. Support the appeal at bbc.co.uk/lifeline and find out more about the charity by visiting tommys.org or following @tommys on social media.