The Center’s expert medical team develops an individualized treatment plan for each pregnant patient. They apply their years of experience and access to current research to determine the best course of care for each mother. Sadly, there are times when even the best medical expertise is unable to save a very sick fetus or baby. Pregnant mothers whose babies have a confirmed diagnosis of a life-limiting condition are offered perinatal palliative care services.
What are the benefits?
This special program gives extra emotional support to the parents and family. A care coordinator walks them through the process of making an individualized birth plan. This step-by-step birth plan allows parents to make important choices about the care given to mom and baby. Information about loss and grieving is given to the family along with extended, supportive follow-up for a year following the loss of the baby. Our team includes obstetricians, pediatricians, lactation specialists, genetic counselors, social workers, chaplains, nurses – a group of caring individuals who want to provide the best possible support and guidance.
When does the program start and what services are offered?
Parents are referred to our Perinatal Palliative Care program if their unborn baby is discovered to have a fatal or life-limiting condition. Each mother is connected with a care coordinator who will be her primary contact during the pregnancy and for a year or longer after the baby is born. Our care coordinators are licensed clinical social workers with experience working with complicated pregnancies and babies with complex medical conditions.
A care coordinator will coordinate prenatal care and provide information about what to expect during pregnancy and beyond. She will help schedule UNC appointments, give tours of UNC hospital, including labor and delivery, facilitate prenatal consults with medical providers who will care for mom and baby, help develop a birth plan, and provide support for the entire family.
A genetic counselor will talk with parents to explain the medical or genetic condition their baby has been diagnosed with and answer questions, review family history, and explain the medical tests that may be suggested to provide additional information about the baby’s condition and for future pregnancies (if desired).
A labor and delivery nurse is available to talk about what may happen during the labor and delivery process, options for pain management, and special momentos and keepsakes for families if a baby dies.
Newborn nursery providers (pediatricians and pediatric nurse practitioners) are available to talk about the medical management of the newborn and comfort care options. They encourage rooming-in (mom and newborn stay together).
The hospital social worker is experienced working with high-risk pregnant women after delivery. She talks with parents about the postpartum period, offers counseling and emotional support during the hospital stay, and can arrange community support including referrals to community home health and hospice agencies.
Board certified chaplains are available 24-hours a day for spiritual support. Darryl Owens, chaplain and grief counselor, provides prenatal counseling to parents as they experience anticipatory grief and loss; talks with families about spiritual, religious and cultural rituals around death; and discusses the planning of funerals and memorial services. Families may also be referred to local bereavement support groups.