The Joanna Briggs Institute develops evidence-based guidance for caring for families who experience stillbirth

Despite the relatively high prevalence of stillbirth, there is limited and sometimes conflicting evidence regarding practices by healthcare professionals caring for families that have experienced it, both in hospital and when parents return home. Some research also suggests that healthcare professionals are often ill-equipped to communicate with and provide meaningful and culturally appropriate care for families during such a tragic event.

In response to the lack of evidence-based guidance for healthcare staff regarding the best approach to caring for and supporting families experiencing stillbirth, a recent research project conducted by the Joanna Briggs Institute (JBI) and supported by the Stillbirth Foundation Australia has developed three professional guidance documents. The guidance has been endorsed by the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RANZCOG) and has also been taken up and disseminated by other groups such as Beyond Blue and Family Included. This guidance was prepared using results from a comprehensive systematic review of the available international research which is available via the same link.

Providing support, being sensitive, empathetic, and validating parents’ emotions are essential features of meaningful care for families that have experienced stillbirth. Accurate and understandable information and collaborative decision-making throughout the experience of stillbirth is crucial, and can have a profound impact on parents’ experiences. Titled, ‘Provision of effective, meaningful and appropriate care for families who have experienced stillbirth’, the systematic review aimed to identify the best non-pharmacological, psychosocial supportive care for families to help parents cope with stillbirth. The research project located, assessed and synthesised the available evidence regarding how parents experienced care provided to them that aimed at improving their psychological well-being during and after a stillbirth.

A number of published and forthcoming journal publications have arisen from the project, including the following papers:

Peters MD, Lisy K, Riitano D, Jordan Z, Aromataris E. Caring for families experiencing stillbirth: Evidence-based guidance for maternity care providers. Women Birth 2015; 28(4): 272-8. doi:10.1016/j.wombi.2015.07.003

Peters MD, Lisy K, Riitano D, Jordan Z, Aromataris E. Providing meaningful care for families experiencing stillbirth: a meta-synthesis of qualitative evidence. J Perinatol 2016; 36(1): 3-9.

Peters MD, Riitano D, Lisy K, Jordan Z, Pearson A, Aromataris E.  Provision of effective, meaningful and appropriate care for families who have experienced stillbirth: a comprehensive systematic review protocol. JBI Database Syst Rev Implement Rep 2014; 12(11): 141–156.

The Joanna Briggs Institute is currently developing a suite of resources for maternity care providers to undertake knowledge translation and implementation projects using the JBI’s Evidence-Based Clinical Fellowship Program to support meaningful and appropriate care for parents and families who experience stillbirth.

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