Support essential to cope with stillbirth

Hospital chaplains struggle with their personal faith when trying to help parents come to terms with stillbirth, research has found.

Moreover, without proper training and support, the experience could have “serious consequences for their wellbeing,” according to the study, published in BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care.

The study’s main author, research student Daniel Nuzum, hospital chaplain at Cork University Hospital, said a diagnosis that a baby will not survive or has already died in utero “brings with it a bewildering array of emotional distress where birth and death collide with life-long impact for the parents.”

The quality of care on offer to parents is paramount, given it could have “long-lasting consequences, both positive and negative,” Mr Nuzum said.

The research involved responses from 20 chaplains at 17 maternity units around the country.

The researchers found widespread diversity in practice and training of hospital chaplains when it came to helping parents cope with stillbirth.

Mr Nuzum said the study highlighted the need for a standardised approach “so that all bereaved parents receive a consistently high level of care and support following the death of their baby.”

He said the study also highlights “that it is time to acknowledge the human and professional impact of stillbirth on healthcare chaplains.”

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