Background

Over 4,000 babies are stillborn every year in the UK. In at least 30% of cases we don’t know what has contributed to the baby’s stillbirth. A post mortem investigation of the baby is the medical examination that helps us understand why babies die and all parents should be offered a post mortem by senior staff at the hospital soon after their baby is stillborn. However, less than half of parents - around 45% - consent for this investigation, which is undertaken by a specialist paediatric or perinatal pathologist.

What is the project trying to achieve?

The goal of this research is to find out where the gaps are in support for parents who are making the difficult decision about whether to consent to a post mortem on their baby or not. Dr Heazell has been focusing on the training and attitudes of health professionals when informing bereaved parents about post mortem. Dr Heazell has surveyed midwives, obstetricians and pathologists, asking them questions about their training in seeking post mortem consent and what difficulties they think parents face in deciding whether to consent to a post mortem.

He has recently concluded a fourth survey of more than 700 parents about their experiences of post mortem and their decision about whether to consent or not.

Who is conducting the research?

Dr Alex Heazell, clinical lecturer in Obstetrics at Manchester University has teamed up with Professor Soo Downe, a Professor of Midwifery to widen the scope of this project to include qualitative research as well.

Timings

This work is now completed and published:

Heazell, A., McLaughlin, M., Schmidt, E., Cox, P., Flenady, V., Khong, T. & Downe, S (2012). A difficult conversation? The views and experiences of parents and professionals on the consent process for perinatal postmortem after stillbirth. BJOG, 119(8), 987-97. eScholarID:177402 | PMID:22587524 | DOI:10.1111/j.1471-0528.2012.03357.x

Downe, S., Kingdon, C., Kennedy, R., Norwell, H., McLaughlin, M. & Heazell, A (2012). Post-mortem examination after stillbirth: views of UK-based practitioners. Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol, 162(1), 33-7.