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The pregnancy journey is unique for those facing a prenatal diagnosis of a life-limiting condition. To care well for these families, it can help to think through each step from their perspective.
Special considerations can offer a sense of authentic support to your patients. This sense of support can lessen feelings of judgment, isolation, and anxiety parents experience throughout these pregnancies, and as they transition into life after loss. As a medical professional providing prenatal care to these families, you have the opportunity to make small yet meaningful changes that have a tremendous impact.
Though this list is by no means exhaustive, we’ve shared 4 special considerations you can use to make a big difference for carrying to term families. Once you begin thinking about the care experience from the perspective of carrying to term families, you may come up with additional ideas specific to your practice.
1. Create More Space
Parents facing the loss of their baby or babies may find it painful or emotionally overwhelming to sit in a waiting room with pregnant women, newborns, and other children. Strongly consider allowing these families to wait in a private waiting room, or to go directly into an exam room following check-in.
Grieving women and families find themselves expending energy to manage their feelings, especially in public settings such as waiting rooms, where their range of emotions may be on display, and where emotions may be easily triggered. Creating space for them might seem like a small gesture, but do not underestimate the power this act of awareness and care can have.
2. Allow More Time
When scheduling appointments or consultations with families carrying to term, block off longer time for them. This extra time allows for more in-depth prenatal counseling, discussion, questions, and planning. It also gives parents a moment to gather their thoughts.
The gift of not feeling rushed or pushed aside is valuable to families anticipating loss. Every family may not need the extra time, but the act of making it available to them communicates that they are a priority and will be supported.
3. Recognize Special Meaning
Ultrasounds are meaningful moments for most patients. But for families facing prenatal diagnosis of a life-limiting condition, these procedures often hold special meaning. In some cases, ultrasounds are the only time that the parents will get to see their baby or babies alive and moving.
When ultrasounds are conducted, consider allocating extra time. Extra time can allow these parents to engage with their baby and make memories. Additionally, consider providing extra sonogram photos or videos to take home as keepsakes. Ask parents if they would like sonograms of the baby’s profile, hands, feet, or any other feature.
4. Remember to Practice Self-Care
To care well for carrying to term families, you must also care well for yourself. Providing this level of care can take a toll on you or your staff — and that’s normal. This work requires a level of empathy, compassion, and dedication that is self-sacrificing. We acknowledge the sacrifices you make for families facing loss.
In order to care well for these families, we believe that doctors and other professionals must be supported. To learn more about caring well for yourself and all members of your practice while caring for patients, please read our post on self-care for medical professionals. Thank you for the work you do.
It is well worth thinking through the pregnancy care journey from the perspective of carrying to term families. Even the smallest gestures can let your patients know that you see them, understand them, and support them. The quality of prenatal medical and emotional care received affects how informed, prepared, and supported parents feel.
Special Consideration is the third of the 3 C’s of compassionate care for carrying to term families. Learn more about the other two C’s in our posts on Communication and Consistency of Care.
To learn more about caring well for families during post-diagnosis grief, anticipatory grief, and the bereavement period following loss, see this article.