Midwifery students learn about care for bereaved families

Date 11.11.2021

Midwifery students equipped themselves for the most emotionally challenging of birthing room events with a series of illuminating talks.

The University of Northampton’s (UON) Midwifery team invited external speakers – professional and personal – to help students learn more about the most difficult of topics, baby bereavement.

The neonatal mortality rate in England in 2019 for babies born at 24 weeks and over was 1.4 deaths per 1,000 live births.

A relatively rare occurrence, but standards from the Nursing and Midwifery Council – that UON students are educated to meet – state that midwives need to recognise the psychological challenges of dealing with loss and bereavement as well as providing care for those affected.

The day’s discussions were led by health professionals, charities and parents who have experienced and overcome bereavement shortly after birth.

They included a specialist Bereavement Midwife who talked about her role and experience and SANDS, the Sudden and Stillborn Neonatal Deaths advice and support helpline, who talked about how the organisation supports bereaved parents.

They were joined by representatives from the Twinkling Stars Appeal – who are raising funds for bereavement suites at Northamptonshire hospitals – and baby loss awareness raising charity 4Theo.

The bereavement lectures were emotional but essential introductions for students to this most challenging area of midwifery and provided them with vital, extra skills to better support families.

The lectures add to the range of opportunities available at UON for Midwifery students, such as:

  • Interprofessional Education, a ‘collaborative curriculum’ where Midwifery students are taught about and with their peers in other subject areas, bolstering their learning.
  • A shared decision-making council of Midwifery students within the maternity unit at Northampton General Hospital, collating their experiences and opinions to better support students, qualified midwives and improve care for mothers and their families.
  • Baby Friendly Initiative (BFI) training – the initiative promotes babies’ nutrition and bonding between mothers and babies – and has been rated as “superb and excellent” by UNICEF.
  • UON is one of only three English universities who are members of the influential Florence Network. This provides the UON Midwifery course with excellent, pan-European collaboration, research and support, as well as student exchange opportunities.

Second year student Amy Ingram said: “I thought bereavement day was a really well delivered and insightful day. I personally feel very passionate about this area of midwifery care; to have a scope of how midwives, charities and people that have personally been affected by bereavement handle this, was invaluable. I also feel that being able to have these sessions delivered face to face was the best way to facilitate the day, and I’m very grateful for the experience.”

Fellow student Lisa Jones added: “The bereavement day at university was hugely beneficial. It was hard hitting and realistic. I found it educational in terms of ways to react in more difficult situations.  To be talked to by those that have personally experienced the loss of a child themselves and shared how the impact of our actions as a student midwife/midwife made a difference good and bad, I feel really helped.”

Rob Crussell (pictured) and his wife Kate experienced the heartache of losing their son Theo during the final stages of Kate’s pregnancy to pre-eclampsia, a potentially fatal condition that includes high blood pressure.

They created 4Theo in remembrance of him and Rob sums up why it’s important for midwifery students to listen to and talk with parents about their experiences: “Our son Theo managed to live for 44 beautiful hours. This meant we got the opportunity to change him, bathe him and for him to spend time with our immediate family who could meet and say goodbye to our baby.

“As our story shows, even at a later stage in a pregnancy when all seems safe and secure, something can go wrong, so midwives need to know how to deal with something no parent ever expects to face.

“Kate and I both feel that making midwives aware of this should start right at the beginning of their careers. Coming to the University of Northampton to talk about Theo and to inspire them to provide the best support for families is something we are very proud to be a part of and we are sure he would be proud of, too.”

Future bereavement sessions for students are set to run later this month and in January and March next year.

Find out more about the University’s Midwifery degree.

Find out more about the Twinkling Stars Appeal and the Forget-me-Not appeal, see the Northamptonshire Health Charity’s website.