Supporting parents following the loss of their baby during pregnancy, at birth or very soon after is a vital and also challenging role for the midwife or support worker. Maternity staff have limited experience and expertise in caring for bereaved families and this can leave them feeling anxious on how and what to say to parents and families and can also leave the families confused and upset if the midwife doesn’t address their needs.
The Royal College of Midwives (RCM) is eager to help midwives and support workers to feel confident in helping bereaved families and this is why the RCM has been on the steering group of the National bereavement care pathway (NBCP) project. The NBCP provides excellent resources and guidance to improve care of bereaved families, for example, the Standards for bereavement care which outline key aspects of care.
Many maternity units already meet the nine standards, in that they have a midwife who leads on bereavement care and that role varies in maternity units. Some midwives will be part of a larger bereavement team and others may be working in the maternity unit only. However the main aspect of the role is to ensure parents get the best individualised care. To ensure best care, bereavement midwives provide training events and updates on how best to support families. The training will explore effective communication, supporting informed choice and offering appropriate advice.
The bereavement midwife will also work with families to explore how the service can be planned to meet their needs, for example in the design of bereavement suites or accessing services at home.
Often the bereavement midwife is the link between the other professional, being a constant presence through the myriad of information from other sources and helping to “translate” the data into what it means for the parents.
The NBCP is essential in guiding all professionals through the challenges that parents face and brings together key partners in the quest to improve care for all families who have experienced loss.
Sands is leading the National Bereavement Care Pathway (NBCP)project in collaboration with other charities and with the support of the Department of Health and the All Party Parliamentary Group on Baby Loss.