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Perinatal grief and loss seminar

(L-R) Jonathan Morris, Mavis Kirkham, Emma McLeod,
David and Alison Homer, Caroline Homer and Nicky Leap

The Centre for Midwifery, Child and Family Health at UTS hosted an important seminar recently titled Perinatal Grief and Loss. The seminar was attended by more than 100 midwives, nurses and consumers many of whom had personal and professional of perinatal loss.

The seminar aimed to raise consciousness about the need for flexible, sensitive care by sharing stories and through engaging with research and education. The focus was on stillbirth although other perinatal losses were also discussed including early neonatal death and the loss experienced by families whose babies are taken into care.

Professor Mavis Kirkham (Adjunct Professor UTS) opened the seminar drawing from her new book called Midwives coping with loss and grief: Stillbirth, professional and personal losses. She explored the experience of midwives who have walked alongside women and families who have experienced loss and grief. Professor Jonathan Morris (Associate Dean and Head, Sydney Medical School) presented the epidemiological data about stillbirth especially the risk factors and possible intervention to reduce stillbirths. His presentation hightlighted a number of areas where midwives, in particular, may be able to make a difference. David and Alison Homer shared the experience of the death and birth of their daughter Harper in a very powerful and moving way. The founder of The Stillbirth Foundation Australia (opens an external site) Emma McLeod OAM then spoke about her personal experience and her courageous journey to establish the Foundation. The Stillbirth Foundation Australia supports research into stillbirth and is the only such dedicated Foundation in the world. Kate Dyer (Midwifery Consultant, Royal Hospital for Women) gave a very lively presentation about the lessons she has learnt over many years in caring for families who experience perinatal loss. Kate gave the audience lots of ideas and tips especially using a ‘toolkit’ to create precious memories. In the afternoon, Ros Richardson (General Manager of SIDS and Kids NSW) explained the important role that her organisation plays in providing support to bereaved parents who have experienced any type of perinatal loss as well raising public awareness of stillbirth and stillbirth reduction campaigns. Finally, Mavis and Professor Nicky Leap (Adjunct Professor UTS) wrapped up the day with a wonderful session exploring what practical strategies midwives and others could take to better support families. Nicky also drew on a project we have undertaken at UTS which explored the loss of women who have had their babies taken at birth to be placed in care. This was a powerful reminder of the many ways that perinatal loss can affect families.

The seminar was evaluated highly with many attendees wanting it to be an annual event. This highlights how important this issue is for women, families and health professionals.

Thank you to all our wonderful speakers and to those who attended.

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