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The provision of spiritual and pastoral care following stillbirth in Ireland: a mixed methods study

Stillbirth is a significant challenge for maternity healthcare chaplains in their personal belief and faith as they provide care. Further specialist training and support is required for chaplains in stillbirth care.

Daniel Nuzum, Sarah Meaney, Keelin O'Donoghue
Journal Name
BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care
Journal Article
Bereavement care, Spirituality, Staff support, Staff training, Stillbirth
The spiritual and professional impact of stillbirth
Full Citation
Nuzum D, Meaney S, O'Donoghue K. The provision of spiritual and pastoral care following stillbirth in Ireland: a mixed methods study. BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care. 2016;6:194-200.
Link to Publication


The death of a baby is one of the most challenging bereavements. Holistic bereavement care includes the physical, emotional, social and spiritual elements of care. Healthcare chaplains from 60% of the maternity units in the Republic of Ireland participated in this study which sought to explore the pastoral care services available following stillbirth and also the impact of stillbirth on the chaplains themselves. This was a qualitative study where each chaplain was interviewed. Sixty percent of chaplains were formally accredited chaplains, 35% did not feel part of the multidisciplinary team and just over half provide follow-up bereavement care -35% felt that this was not part of their role. The main themes to emerge from the study for chaplains were the personal impact of stillbirth, the reality of suffering they experienced in their care of bereaved parents and how the death of a baby challenged their own personal faith and belief. The results from this study recommend more training and increased for maternity healthcare chaplains in their role.

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,