Experiences of volunteers supporting parents following a fatal fetal anomaly diagnosis

Volunteers feel comfortable in their peer support role to bereaved parents. However, there is a need for education and collaborative working between health care professionals and volunteers to assist them in supporting bereaved parents.


Stacey Power Walsh, Keelin O'Donoghue, Sarah Meaney

Journal Name
Qualitative Health Research
Journal Article
Bereavement care, Experience, Fatal fetal anomaly

Experiences of pregnancy with major fetal anomalies

Full Citation

Power S, O’Donoghue K, Meaney S. Experiences of volunteers supporting parents following a fatal fetal anomaly diagnosis. Qualitative Health Research. 2021;31(5):835-846.

Link to Publication


In Ireland, we have relied on voluntary organisations to support bereaved parents following their discharge from hospital. Little is known about volunteers experiences, within these voluntary organisations, thus we aimed to explore what their experiences of supporting parents following a fatal fetal anomaly diagnosis was. We undertook one to one interviews with 17 volunteers. We found that most volunteers had a personal experience of child bereavement, and it was this experience that encouraged them to volunteer. Volunteers reported feeling comfortable in supporting bereaved parents however had a lack of knowledge in the new termination of pregnancy service for fatal fetal anomalies. They also experienced being brought back to their own experience which was a challenge. Volunteers reported that their ability to support bereaved parents would benefit from up-to-date education and training and working with healthcare professionals. Volunteer’s knowledge and practice needs to reflect that of best practice and respond to the ever changing needs of service users. Therefore, they should be given educational opportunities and provided with information on how to access services to manage their own health and assist others in doing so.

Pregnancy Loss Research Group

Pregnancy Loss Research Group, Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, University College Cork, Fifth Floor, Cork University Maternity Hospital, Wilton, Cork, T12 YE02, Ireland,