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Supporting Parents After Stillbirth: A Healthcare Provider's Guide

The loss of a baby through stillbirth is a devastating experience for families, leaving them in a state of shock, grief, and confusion. Despite its prevalence, many parents are left feeling unheard and unsupported. As healthcare providers, we have a crucial role to play in helping families navigate this incredibly difficult time.


The Need for Emotional Support:

Studies reveal the damaging effects of inadequate emotional support for families experiencing stillbirth. Feelings of isolation, neglect, and resentment can be exacerbated by insensitive communication, poor communication, or avoidance by healthcare professionals.





Creating a Supportive Environment:

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) emphasizes the importance of focusing on the emotional needs of families. This means:

  • Normalizing their reactions: Acknowledge the validity of their emotions, including shock, denial, anger, sadness, and even suicidal ideation. Let them know these feelings are normal and expected.

  • Building trust: Establish a supportive relationship through good eye contact, reassuring touch (when appropriate), and open communication.

  • Individualized care: Recognize that each family grieves differently. Tailor your approach to their unique needs and cultural or religious preferences.

Respecting Personal Choices:

  • Naming the baby: Encourage parents to choose a name for their baby and use it throughout your interactions. This personalizes the experience and allows them to acknowledge their child's existence.

  • Holding the baby: Offer parents the opportunity to hold and spend time with their baby, as it can be a source of comfort and closure for some.

  • Photos and keepsakes: Respect their decision to take pictures or create keepsakes. This can be a valuable way to remember their child.

Honesty and Open Communication:

  • Acknowledge your limitations: If you feel unsure or overwhelmed, it's okay to be honest with the family. Let them know you're there to support them but may not have all the answers.

  • Avoid clichés: Avoid dismissive comments like "at least you can get pregnant again." Recognize the profound loss they are facing.

  • Open communication: Encourage parents to ask questions. This is especially true when seeking answers about the "why".

  • Autopsy option: When appropriate, present the option of an autopsy delicately, highlighting its potential to provide answers but also acknowledging its emotional sensitivity.

The Importance of Ongoing Support:

  • Grief counseling: Encourage them to seek grief counseling or support groups. Connecting with others who have experienced similar losses can be incredibly helpful.

  • Continuing care: Even after discharge, acknowledge the parents' ongoing grief. Offer follow-up appointments or connect them with additional resources.

Supporting families after stillbirth requires sensitivity, understanding, and a commitment to providing compassionate care. By incorporating these steps, healthcare professionals can play a significant role in helping families navigate their grief and find healing on their journey.


Remember: Every attempt matters. By providing comprehensive bereavement support and counseling, healthcare professionals can leave an impeccable impact on grieving families and help them create positive memories of their child while navigating the difficult path of healing and loss.


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Does your hospital have a cooling cradle?

Donating a Cenotaph Cradle to your local hospital can memorialize a baby, and help families affected by infant loss in the future gain the gift of time. 

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