Requests of a Bereaved Mother for All Prenatal Providers

Title: Requests of a Bereaved Mother for all Prenatal Providers | overlaid on image of pregnancy and infant care books.
(Miranda Hernandez)

After my son died at the end of a term pregnancy in 2017, I created this list of things I would like to see done differently in prenatal care, both before & after loss. These are things that would have made a difference in my pregnancy. These things might have kept my son alive.

During pregnancy: Informed consent starts with information

Dear Midwives & OB/GYNs -- Please educate your patients about stillbirth. We deserve to know the facts.
(Miranda Hernandez; additional image sizes available at the bottom of this post)
    • If a pregnant patient wishes to discuss risk with you, do so honestly, in as much detail as they desire. Do not dismiss their concerns; you will only send them to Dr. Google
    • If a patient is at particular risk for stillbirth or other difficult outcome, ensure they understand what that means. Do not reassure them that “everything will be fine”, especially when higher risk exists. DO discuss specific risks, & actions they can take to be on guard and/or mitigate them
  • Informed Consent—If a patient chooses to continue a pregnancy post-term, or to refuse a procedure that could increase risk of stillbirth, ensure they are aware of the numerical and specific risk; inform with hard numbers, and without fear
  • Movements Matter—Educate your patients about the importance of kick counts. Read up on recent changes in Australia and the UK regarding tracking each baby’s individual pattern of movement instead of arbitrary numbers. Emphasize that each pregnancy is unique and should not be compared to other pregnancies, even for the same woman
  • Eliminate Myths—Ensure your patients understand that babies never run out of room in the womb; movements change in type, but not in frequency
Dear Midwives & OB/GYNs -- Ensure your patients understand that babies never run out of room in the womb; movements change in type, but not in frequency.
(Miranda Hernandez; additional image sizes available at the bottom of this post)
  • Dangers of Dopplers—Talk to your patients about not using or relying on home dopplers for reassurance. Discourage patients from purchasing or using home dopplers
  • Warning signs—Educate your patients on warning signs of stillbirth: marked decrease or increase in movements; any period of especially intense activity outside of the norm for that pregnancy; intense itching, particularly on but not limited to the hands and feet; sharp pain in upper right quadrant/under ribs; intense headache; swelling, especially intense swelling of hands and/or face
Dear Midwives & OB/GYNs -- Please educate your patients on warning signs of stillbirth: Marked decrease or increase in movements; any period of especially intense activity outside of the norm for that pregnancy; intense itching, particularly on but not limited to the hands and feet; sharp pain in upper right quadrant/under ribs; intense headache; swelling, especially intense swelling of hands and/or face
(Miranda Hernandez; additional image sizes available at the bottom of this post)
  • Be available—Encourage patients to call you and/or go to L&D anytime they feel something could be wrong, even if they come in daily. Let them know they are never a bother

For the hospital/birthing center:

  • Resources—Make contact with all local organizations providing memory or comfort boxes. Ensure all personnel are aware of the location of these boxes, and how to request more
  • Cuddle Cot—If you have a cuddle cot, ensure all personnel are aware of its location and how to use. If you do not have a cuddle cot, consider requesting or holding a fundraiser to purchase one
Dear Prenatal Provider taking care of me after the loss of my child -- Please purchase a cuddle cot for your facility. I deserve the ability to spend time with my child.
(Miranda Hernandez; additional image sizes available at the bottom of this post)
  • Training—Ensure all staff members are trained on appropriate procedures for stillbirth or perinatal loss
  • Limited Personnel—Whenever possible, minimize the number of staff members who work with a bereaved family. This allows parents to become comfortable with providers and not have to explain or answer questions multiple times

If a stillbirth should occur:

  • Be empathetic—Understand this is a traumatic & confusing time in your patient’s life, possibly/ probably their worst moment ever. Be prepared to speak slowly, proceed slowly, and repeat things if necessary. Whenever medically possible, give the patient time to process before pushing any procedures
  • Ask for and refer to the child(ren) by name

Dear Prenatal Provider taking care of me after the loss of my child -- Please ask me for my child's name, and then use it.

(Miranda Hernandez; additional image sizes available at the bottom of this post)

Dear Prenatal Provider taking care of me after the loss of my child -- If I do ask about religious services, please help me find the resources I need. I may want a priest or chaplain, or special supplies. Help me with what I need.
(Miranda Hernandez; additional image sizes available at the bottom of this post)

After discharge:

  • Follow up—Follow up with the patient regularly. If possible, schedule a check-up within the first few days of discharge. Offer to and attend the funeral
Dear Prenatal Provider taking care of me after the loss of my child -- Follow up with me after discharge, earlier than my 6 week appointment. Follow up with me medically and personally. Ask if I am having a funeral, and attend it.
(Miranda Hernandez; additional image sizes available at the bottom of this post)
  • Be available—Be available to meet with your patient as often as they need it
  • Listen—If your patient wants to talk to you about their feelings, listen. You are the face they are most familiar with, and they may want to talk to you before seeing a counselor, therapist, or support group
  • Offer Additional Support—Referral to an MFM, discussion of autopsy results, referral to a grief therapist or support group, other medical services as appropriate. Understand many patients will not be ready to utilize these services in the beginning; offer again in a few weeks and/or months

In general:

  • Understanding—Understand what it’s like to experience a stillbirth or perinatal loss, both physically & emotionally. If you don’t have personal experience, read books/blogs, or speak with bereaved parents
  • Be a resource—Be aware of support groups and resources for bereaved parents in your area
    Support the whole family—Ensure the father/second parent/other family members also receive support
  • Use plain language—“Stillbirth” is not a dirty word. Use plain words like “stillbirth” and “death”
  • Use caution:
Dear Prenatal Provider taking care of me after the loss of my child -- Please don't tell me it's not my fault. Those words feel empty right now. If I want to talk about it, I will bring it up when I'm ready.
(Miranda Hernandez; additional image sizes available at the bottom of this post)
    • When talking about subsequent children—Some parents will want to discuss this right away, but some will not. Avoid phrases like “try again”; instead, say “try for a second/another child”. Similarly, avoid terms like “rainbow baby” unless the parent(s) have used it first
    • When dealing with an “early” loss—Regardless of the legal definition of miscarriage vs. stillbirth, ensure all bereaved parents are supported in every way they need. All parents should be offered support and the option for memorabilia, to include photos, and all parents should be able to select a means of disposition for their child’s remains
  • Please know, most of all, that you were with me on the worst day of my life, and I appreciate it. I probably can’t tell you right away, but you should know. Thank you.
Dear Prenatal Provider taking care of me after the loss of my child -- Please know, most of all, that you were with me on the worst day of my life, and I appreciate it. I probably can't tell you right away, but you should know. Thank you.
(Miranda Hernandez; additional image sizes available at the bottom of this post)

***Regardless of past experience and everything written here, each individual case is specific
and unique. Where conflict exists between these instructions and patient desires, always allow the
patient freedom to choose. They will be your guide in providing the care they need***

~
A PDF version of this post is available here: Requests of a Bereaved Mother for Prenatal Providers.

Related Posts:

Resources for Prenatal Providers
Resources for Expecting Parents
Safe Pregnancy Blog
Topic: Informed Pregnancy & Stillbirth Prevention

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💙🐘💙 Miranda’s Blog contains thoughts from a bereaved mother on stillbirth, child loss, mental health after loss, pregnancy and parenting after loss, and thoughts on grief positivity and grief support. 💙🐘💙
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