We surveyed the 21 maternity units between March 2016 and May 2017. Some of the responses were returned before the launch of the National Standards for Bereavement Care in August 2016, which aim to drive improvements in the care for families in cases of pregnancy loss or perinatal death.
How does my maternity unit support women who have had a miscarriage?
All but one maternity unit provide supports ranging from early pregnancy units, to pastoral support, to bereavement counselling. Several mentioned assistance with burial arrangements. Some mentioned providing a single room where possible.
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How does my maternity unit support women who have had a diagnosis of a fatal fetal abnormality?
Most hospitals answered this question, saying they aim to provide sensitive care with private rooms where possible. Obstetricians and neonatologists provide care where appropriate. Counselling, along with the support of the bereavement team and/or social worker, is often offered. Some of the smaller units refer parents to tertiary centres for specialised care or counselling.
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How does my maternity unit support women who have a stillborn baby?
All maternity units provide this support. Women are given a single room for the family to spend time with their baby and to allow for mementos to be made (photographs, hand and footprints, book of remembrance etc.). Partners are often encouraged to stay overnight. Some units mentioned using special cots so that babies can stay in the same room as their mothers for as long as the family wants. Where possible, units ensure continuity of staff looking after the family. Pastoral care, access to a chaplain, information, support and, in some cases, provision of burial services are provided by maternity units. Bereavement counselling and contact with support groups are also available. Some units hold bereavement meetings or remembrance services. Some follow up with parents a number of weeks or months after the baby's birth.
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How does my maternity unit support women whose babies are not likely to live very long?
All maternity units provide this support, and each case is dealt with on an individual basis. In cases where parents know before the birth, they can make plans as to what they might like to happen after the birth. A single room is available for families to spend time with their babies, allowing for photographs to be taken and other mementos to be made. The units provide access to a special care team if appropriate, pastoral care, palliative care and chaplain services. Support is available from the Jack and Jill Foundation and other community-based care if parents bring their baby home. Links to relevant support groups are also available.
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What sort of bereavement services can my maternity unit offer families?
We asked the hospitals about any specially trained staff they have, about the duration of support services and whether there are supports for partners and other family members.
At the time of the survey, not all units had specially trained staff, but that is likely to improve following the launch of the National Standards for Bereavement Care. Many units have one or more bereavement midwives to provide support. Staff in several units undergo periodic training in bereavement or breaking bad news. Some units specified that support continues up to one year after the loss, and other units had no limit. Some mentioned support continuing into future pregnancies. Most units provide support to the entire family or links to other organisations.
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How does my maternity unit support parents whose babies are born premature?
Not all units gave details on their support, but such support can include providing information specific to their baby's condition, assistance with expressing breastmilk, accommodation for parents, links to Irish Premature Babies organisation, clear communication from staff and transfer to tertiary centres where necessary.
See also our FAQ section on Special Care in this guide.
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How does my maternity unit support mothers who have had a traumatic birth?
Most units reported that they offer opportunities to debrief the birth. Follow-up is on an individual basis. Some units mentioned support for future pregnancies. In some units, counselling services are available to these mothers. Sometimes women are given single rooms if they have had a traumatic birth.
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