Caring for families coping with perinatal loss

J Obstet Gynecol Neonatal Nurs. Nov-Dec 2008;37(6):631-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1552-6909.2008.00290.x.


Objective: To describe support needs and comfort level of labor nurses caring for families experiencing perinatal loss.

Design: Qualitative descriptive study.

Setting: A western hospital birthing unit.

Participants: Ten labor nurses.

Method: Participants completed online surveys and follow-up interviews; data saturation was reached. Content analysis produced themes and recommendations related to providing perinatal bereavement care. Participants reviewed and confirmed accuracy of the results.

Results: Nurses are generally comfortable but find it difficult to provide perinatal bereavement care. Strategies for coping include focusing on needed care, talking to nursing peers, and spending time with their own family members. Nurses take turns providing care depending on "who is best able to handle it that day" and prefer not to be assigned a laboring patient in addition to the grieving parents. Developing clinical expertise is necessary to gain the comfort level and the skills necessary to care for these vulnerable families. Orientation experiences and nursing staff debriefing would help. Needed education includes grief training, communication techniques, and guidelines for the extensive paperwork.

Conclusions: Initial and ongoing education of nurses about perinatal bereavement care is needed. Effective strategies for coping during and after providing care would support nurses in meeting the emotional challenge of providing high quality perinatal bereavement care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Spontaneous / nursing
  • Abortion, Spontaneous / psychology
  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Bereavement*
  • Clinical Competence
  • Education, Nursing, Continuing
  • Empathy*
  • Family / psychology*
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Nurse's Role / psychology
  • Nursing Methodology Research
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital / education
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital / organization & administration
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital / psychology*
  • Obstetric Nursing / education
  • Obstetric Nursing / methods*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Self Efficacy
  • Social Support
  • Stillbirth / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires