Midwives in NHS Grampian have shared insights into how they support women and bereaved families following the loss of a baby.
The health board is part of a Scotland-wide pilot project called National Bereavement Care Pathways, which aims to improve the care and experiences of women and families who experience baby loss and helps hundreds every year.
Each year, the health board supports between 15 to 20 women going through a still birth, which is a loss at more than 24 weeks pregnant, 50 to 60 experiencing a loss after 13 weeks but before 24 weeks and approximately 1,000 going through a miscarriage.
They are also there for around eight to ten families who lose a baby within the first few weeks of their lives.
Midwives Myra Kinnaird and Marcia Dean work alongside colleagues providing clinical care at Aberdeen Maternity Hospital and Dr Gray’s Hospital in Elgin to offer ongoing support to families following their loss.
As part of Baby Loss Awareness Week, the two bereavement support midwives – one based in Elgin and another in Aberdeen, spoke about their work and the care they provide to those going through loss
Myra said: “A loss is a loss. No matter what stage of pregnancy you are in, it’s an upsetting time for women and families and it is important everyone going through this is offered compassionate care and support.”
In Scotland, all baby deaths which occur after 24 weeks of pregnancy are reviewed, and midwives like Myra and Marcia can support families at review meetings as well as attending a follow up appointment with their consultant and sharing the results of reviews with parents.
They provide specialist training to many other midwives supporting women through loss, work closely with local charities Sands and MISS to provide a variety of helpful items to women and families, and offer support to women in future pregnancies – often being the first point of contact for families to engage with maternity services.
They can also arrange referrals for siblings to the Archie Child Bereavement Service.
Marcia explained: “One of the most important things we do is to act on any feedback from women and families, and ensure we continue to improve the care provided to others going through this difficult time. This sometimes includes changing the guidance we share with staff.
“We couldn’t do our job without the excellent ward midwives and nurses we work alongside. The care and compassion they provide to women and families is second-to-none.”
Women in the health board experiencing baby loss are given a separate, private room, and have the option to keep their baby with them the whole time they are in hospital.
Cuddle cots are provided for babies which can also be taken home for short stays with bereaved families.
Midwifery staff can help families to create a memory box for their baby if they would like to.
Reflecting on more than 30 years as a midwife, and more than 20 supporting women experiencing baby loss, Myra said: “We’ve come a long way but it’s still a very taboo subject and it’s important we talk about it so the women going through it don’t feel alone.
“It’s a real privilege for myself and Marcia to be able to support families with baby loss. The personal relationships we build up over time and the emotional support we offer is hugely appreciated. Some people we may only meet once but speak or email regularly and I think there’s something very special about being there for bereaved families and sharing the memories of their babies.”
Marcia added: “I’ll always remember one mum saying ‘you’re the midwife no-one wants to meet but I’m really glad I did.’ That sums it up because we meet them at their deepest point and that journey can go on for years. We are always remembered and thanked for the role we had in their lives at such a difficult time.
“We understand the anxiety women may have in a future pregnancy and can be a continued point of contact for families. We can arrange early scans and blood tests in future pregnancies and are happy just being there for women for as long as they wish.”
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