I recently published this article on The impact of stillbirth on bereaved parents in PLOSONE. This study amongst parents bereaved following stillbirth identified four main areas that arose for parents following the death of their baby:
importance of the personhood of the baby,
protective care and
relationships (personal and professional).
This article draws on and gives voice to the experiences of bereaved parents following what is unquestionably one of the most difficult bereavements. These voices and experiences are important for us as health professionals to hear so that we can provide the highest quality of sensitive and professional bereavement care.
Sadly, we can not change the reality of death, but we can change how parents and families are cared for during what is a very difficult experience. Parents in this study said that they appreciated clear communication, kindness and empathic care from healthcare professionals. Key moments such as when a diagnosis of intrauterine death or fatal anomaly was made, or the birth/ death of their baby were remembered in vivid detail by parents. Parents experience a bewildering array of emotional distress when birth and death collide and they move from a trajectory of expectation to one of grief.
How we care for and support parents and families following stillbirth is deserves the very best of our humanity, professionalism and skill.
I would be interested in your thoughts...
This study was carried out with colleagues in the Pregnancy Loss Research Group at the Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology at University College Cork. @pregnancyLossIE
As a chaplain I was delighted to be invited to be part of the Expert Development Group and was honoured to work with over twenty other healthcare professionals over the last two years to bring this work to completion.
The challenge now is to move toward implementation which is being ably lead by Dr Keelin O'Donoghue, Consultant Obstetrician and Fetal medicine specialist at Cork University Maternity Hospital and the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at University College Cork. Dr O'Donoghue also leads our multidisciplinary Pregnancy Loss Research Group at CUMH/UCC.
On a personal note I acknowledge the support of the Diocesan Council of Cork, Cloyne and Ross and the Board of Directors of St Luke's Home, Mahon who together fund my chaplaincy post. In addition to providing pastoral ministry at Cork University Hospital and Maternity Hospital this funding has enabled me to contribute to this important national process.
I was recently conferred with a PhD from University College Cork. A PhD is very much a team effort and I wish to acknowledge with gratitude the encouragement and support of my family, close friends, supervisors, and wonderful work colleagues. I also wish to acknowledge the support of the St St Luke's Home Charity who generously co-fund my chaplaincy post with our Diocesan Council. Above all I thank the bereaved parents, obstetricians and chaplains who participated in my research. Your stories are treasure. Thank you