Our society doesn’t like to think about death and dying. What could be more devastating? Death of children. “Nearly 45,000 children die in America each year. More than half of all childhood deaths occur in the first year of life- what is known as infant mortality, and roughly 2/3 of those die from conditions related to the perinatal period” according to an article in the Seminars in Perinatology.
Specialty palliative care not only refers to those with specialized training and certification in palliative care, it also refers to the specialized areas of care where palliative care can be provided. Perinatal palliative care is comprehensive, holistic support provided to families who receive news during pregnancy that the child has a life-limiting diagnosis. As with any palliative care approach, an interdisciplinary team provides the needed physical, emotional, spiritual, and psychosocial care defined by the family.
Interventions can include understanding of the diagnosis; identification of options for care upon delivery; creating a birth plan that is consistent with the family’s hopes, values and goals; memory making and bereavement support. Studies show that women who received perinatal palliative care “voiced positive feedback about their decisions to continue their pregnancies, and parents cited personal growth in the aftermath.”
October is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Did you know 1 in 4 women will lose a baby during pregnancy, delivery or infancy? According to the Centers for Disease Control, non-Hispanic Black women and American Indian/Alaska Native women are twice as likely to experience stillbirth in comparison to Non-Hispanic Whites, Asian or Pacific Islanders, and Hispanics. Research supports a lower quality of maternal health care, socioeconomic factors, and structural racism in healthcare closely tie to racial disparities in maternal and infant deaths.
Below are resources to share with families facing this devastating loss: