Almost half of women who lost babies were not told about mental health impacts, survey finds

Survey of maternity hospital bereavement finds 12 per cent of women had no confidence in staff

Nearly half of women who lost a baby during or shortly after pregnancy said they were not given information about the potential impact on their mental health when discharged from hospital, according to a landmark survey.

The first National Maternity Bereavement Experience Study found 12 per cent of women did not have confidence or trust in the healthcare staff that treated them in hospital.

Some 655 women and 232 partners took part in the survey, which was carried out by a team based in the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa), published on Thursday.

Three quarters of participants felt they received a good standard of care in maternity hospital, while a quarter rated their care as between fair or poor.


More than half of women under 25 described their experience in hospital as fair to poor, nearly twice as high as any other age cohort.

The survey examined care across the country’s 19 maternity hospital units between 2019 and 2021.

It surveyed the experiences of women and their partners who had a second trimester miscarriage, whose baby was stillborn, or who experienced early neonatal deaths.

Half of the women who took part in the online survey had experienced a second trimester miscarriage.

Some 82 per cent of women said their partner was able to accompany them during labour, while five per cent said due to Covid-19 restrictions on hospital visitors they had to give birth alone.

For women whose infants were admitted to a neonatal unit after birth, 71 per cent said they were “definitely” given an opportunity to ask about their babies’ care.

The survey said around a fifth of partners felt they were not involved in decisions about their babies’ care, and that healthcare staff did not acknowledge their needs during the difficult time.

Where babies died shortly after being born, a third of women said they were not given information or support about lactation and breast care.

Teenage and women aged younger than 25 rated their postnatal care lower than other age groups, the survey said.

A third of women whose baby died said family or friends were not able to see their child in the hospital, due to Covid-19 restrictions on visits.

While a majority of women said they were offered ways to make memories with their baby after death, such as naming them, taking photos, or creating a memory box, a small minority said they were offered none of these options.

For women who consented to have a postmortem examination carried out, six per cent reported waiting more than a year to hear the results.

More than 80 per cent of women said they were placed in a single room when they were admitted to hospital.

Some 15 per cent of women said they had no follow-up care after leaving the hospital, while around half of women saw a General Practitioner.

However, nearly a quarter of women said their GP did not give them enough care or support through their bereavement.

Women whose babies were stillborn rated the quality of their care much higher than women who had miscarriages, or whose babies died shortly after birth.

The survey also included a range of responses from women and partners on their experiences of bereavement.

One woman said after losing her baby she was put into a room with mothers who had delivered babies, or women who were pregnant, which she said made her experience “even more difficult”.

One partner said their wife was alone, due to Covid-19 restrictions, when told the “heartbreaking information” that their baby had died.

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is acting Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times