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Findings of the National Maternity Bereavement Experience Survey have been published.

18 May 2023

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The survey, which is the first ever national survey of maternity bereavement care in Ireland, asked women and their partners about the bereavement care that they received in an Irish maternity hospital or unit following a pregnancy loss or perinatal death. The aim of the survey was to learn from the experiences of bereaved parents in order to improve the standard and quality of maternity bereavement care in Ireland.


Women and their partners who experienced a second trimester miscarriage, a stillbirth or the early neonatal death of a baby in one of Ireland’s 19 maternity units or hospitals between 1 January 2019 and 31 December 2021, were invited to participate in the National Maternity Bereavement Experience Survey. The willingness of participating parents to share their experiences of such a difficult and painful time, will help to improve maternity bereavement care in Ireland. In total, 655 women and 232 partners or support persons took part in the survey.


Participants shared their experiences of the care they received, from communication and information at the time of antenatal diagnosis, through to labour and birth, postnatal and bereavement care, neonatal care, investigations, discharge home, follow-up care and care in the community.


The survey findings show that 74% of participants rated their overall care as ‘very good’ or ‘good’, and 26% rated their care as ‘fair to poor’.


Participants praised staff for their caring and sensitive attitudes, with numerous comments mentioning midwives and chaplaincy staff in particular.


Participants identified areas where care can be improved, particularly in relation to information and support relating to grieving, physical recovery, and mental health after leaving hospital. Participants expressed a desire for dedicated spaces in hospitals for grieving parents; more consistent communication across services involved in their care; additional supports for physical and mental health; and more support for partners.


The survey showed that ‘care after birth and meeting your baby’, rated as the highest-scoring stage of care. 82% of participants said that their baby was presented in a respectful and sensitive manner, and participants felt that they could spend as much time as they wanted with their baby.


The highest-scoring question for partners related to feeling supported to meet their baby, with 81% of participants saying that healthcare staff ‘definitely’ did enough to support them if they wanted to meet their baby.


The lowest-scoring stage of care was ‘discharge’, with 47% of participants saying that they were not given information about changes they might experience to their mental health before they were discharged from hospital. Partners also rated clear explanations, involvement in decisions and needs being acknowledged, poorly. 14% of participants said that healthcare professionals did not explain what was happening in a way they could understand, while 20% felt that they were not involved in decisions about their baby’s care. In addition, 17% of participants felt that healthcare professionals did not acknowledge the partner or support person’s needs.


The HSE and the National Women and Infant Health Programme (NWIHP) will use the survey findings to inform and underpin NWIHP’s work across a range of current and future projects and programmes. The results will also inform the development of quality improvement plans at national and local levels. The Department of Health will use the information gathered to inform the development of policy in relation to maternity bereavement care. Finally, the findings of the survey will inform HIQA’s approach to the monitoring of maternity care.


Four reports — a national report and three reports exploring the particular types of care experienced — have been published today. These reports, and the full methodology of our survey, can be viewed here.