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Caring for parents at the time of stillbirth: How can we do better?

Parents of stillborn babies need recognition of the importance of their baby’s death and the care they receive must reflect this by providing a professional bereavement service through kind, empathic and sensitive interactions at every stage, throughout their whole experience.

Orla O'Connell, Sarah Meaney, Keelin O'Donoghue
Journal Name
Women and Birth
Journal Article
Bereavement care, Stillbirth
Full Citation
O’Connell O, Meaney S, O’Donoghue K. Caring for parents at the time of stillbirth: How can we do better? Women and Birth. 2016;29(4):345-349.
Link to Publication


Maternity units have always sought to help mothers when a baby was stillborn. Up to the 1970s in Ireland it was common practice to discourage mothers from seeing or talking about their stillborn baby. This was due to the belief that if you could avoid attachment you could avoid grief. The father’s grief was rarely considered. Modern bereavement theory however recognises that it is vital to recognise the tragedy of stillbirth and for parents and families to have opportunities to connect with the baby and make memories that will continue as an important part of their lives. This now happens through spending time with baby, photos, rituals, autopsy, counselling and a greater focus on sensitive communication. This research surveyed parents to discover if their needs were being met. We discovered that we were providing care in the right areas but were lacking in communication, postnatal follow-up, written information and autopsy information. Overwhelmingly however parents’ focus was on the importance of the kindness and sensitivity of staff. Empathic interactions provide comforting memories that will help the family in their grief far into the future.

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,