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Impact of bereavement care and pregnancy loss services on families: Findings and recommendations from Irish inquiry reports

Personalised perinatal bereavement care helps families to cope with their loss. Immediate bereavement support must be offered to families by expert maternity staff. Families and relevant clinical staff should be involved in perinatal inquiries.


Änne Helps, Keelin O'Donoghue, Sara Leitao

Journal Name
Journal Article
Bereavement care, Impact, Neonatal death, Perinatal mortality, Stillbirth

Perinatal death reviews, inquiries and audits

Full Citation

Helps Ä, O'Donoghue K, O'Byrne L, Greene R, Leitao S. Impact of bereavement care and pregnancy loss services on families: Findings and recommendations from Irish inquiry reports. Midwifery. 2020;91:102841.

Link to Publication


Pregnancy loss and the death of a baby can be overwhelming for families. The standard of bereavement care families receive can have a significant impact on their psychological recovery. At times external inquiries are carried out to identify issues in the maternity care provided and make recommendations to improve its’ standard. We described the impact of bereavement care provided to families around the time of pregnancy or early infant loss as stated in ten published inquiry reports related to Irish maternity services. Five main themes were identified: communication, healthcare staff skills, maternity unit environment, post-mortem/coronial process, local incident reviews. Bereavement care, as described by families, was not consistently respectful, resulting in additional feelings of anger and upset. Problems with clear communication of complex issues were identified in several reports. Recommendations from the inquiry reports included that skilled staff should always be available to provide immediate support to bereaved families as appropriate, and assist families in understanding information around the time of their loss. Consistent, individualised bereavement care facilitates a seamless transition for bereaved families from diagnosis through the hospital stay to discharge and follow-up, allowing them to focus on their baby, their bereavement and their family's wellbeing.

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,