Improving support in a pregnancy after stillbirth or neonatal death (the IMPS study)

Many parents who have suffered a stillbirth embark on another pregnancy, often within a relatively short time after their loss. We currently know very little about women’s experiences of care and what extra support they would find helpful.

The death of a baby before or shortly after birth is devastating. Many bereaved parents embark on another pregnancy relatively soon. However, worry and anxiety are common. Too much stress can contribute to problems before and after birth, and may affect the long-term health of both the mother and baby. Women who have previously had a stillbirth or neonatal death are sometimes offered extra appointments or tests in pregnancy to provide reassurance about their own and the baby’s wellbeing. However, the care provided may not be the same in different hospitals or areas of the country. We currently know very little about women’s experiences of care and the extra support they would find helpful, when it should be provided and by whom.

This study explored the views and experiences of women, their partners and health professionals. We found that while many women reported high-quality care, they did not all receive adequate emotional and psychological support. Our work shows a need to improve the education for staff and the delivery of support services so that all bereaved parents have access to the care they need following loss. We hope to develop and test a specific intervention to improve antenatal support for these women.

We are using our new knowledge to improve the care given to women who have suffered stillbirth in our Rainbow Clinic, to help parents who have suffered feel supported and able to move forward. 

Researchers

Dr Tracey Mills, Professor Alexander Heazell, Dr Melissa Whitworth, Catherine Ricklesford, Professor Dame Tina Lavender

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Funding

This study took place in a Tommy's centre and was funded by Tommy's and the National Institute for Health Research

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