Perinatal Loss: Funding to Expand Peer Support

There is a clear gap of support for perinatal loss in Vermont. These events include when a baby has died in pregnancy through the first year of infancy. Historically, perinatal loss has been a hidden or disenfranchised grief, and thus not adequately supported by the community. Yet, we know that parents facing perinatal loss are at much greater risk for perinatal mood and anxiety disorders compared to non-bereaved parents. Empty Arms Vermont is the only statewide organization that provides comprehensive peer support for any family in Vermont facing pregnancy or infant loss.

The Alliance supports the Empty Arms effort to secure one-time funding of $40,000 for two years to expand operational capacity so that the organization has the personnel resources and time to scale up its programs and develop a long-term plan for sustainable funding.

Result: Funding not secured

Despite strong support from both the House Human Services and Senate Health and Welfare Committees and a very active advocacy effort, the FY25 Budget did not include one-time funding to support the development of Empty Arms Vermont, an organization that provides peer support to families around the state that have suffered a loss during the perinatal period.

Advocacy continues by both Empty Arms and legislators seeking state funding for the program through other sources.

Lead Organization: Empty Arms Vermont

Data and Talking Points

  • Bereaved birthing parents have four times greater odds of major depression and seven times greater odds of post-traumatic stress disorder than non-bereaved birthing parents. 
  • Untreated perinatal mood and anxiety disorders account for an estimated $48 million in societal costs in Vermont. The state, insurers, and families bear this cost. Supporting comprehensive support services for perinatal loss ultimately decreases the incurred costs for untreated mental illness.
  • Social support plays a role in buffering the effects of trauma and in mediating stress after bereavement.
  • An intervention that allows mothers to express their emotions and retell their stories helps to decrease depression, self-blame, and trauma.