Perinatal Palliative Care
The birth of a baby is often a joyous, life-changing event. When a child is born, a mother, a father, siblings and grandparents are also born. When your unborn child is expected to have complications at or after delivery, birth of your baby often becomes a time of confusion, fear and dread. Your priorities and focus changes and you may find yourself preparing for the worst while hoping for the best.
Alongside your routine prenatal care, perinatal palliative care is provided during pregnancy when an unborn child has a known or suspected life-threatening or life-limiting condition. During your pregnancy and surrounding your baby’s birth, your palliative care team can:
- Meet with you and your family to review your baby’s condition and expected prognosis.
- Discuss how to best prepare for the life and potential death of your baby.
- Arrange a tour of Community’s Family Rooms or Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). You may be able to meet with some of the clinical staff that will be with you and your family during your hospital stay.
- Discuss your desires and goals for both your care and the care of your baby.
Create a written birth plan to share with your medical team before and at delivery to assure your preferences are understood.
Palliative care during labor
The day of your baby’s birth may be full of excitement, hope and confusion. Your palliative care team is available to be present around the time of your delivery to offer continued support to you and your loved ones. Our team includes social workers and chaplains who are also available to perform religious ceremonies, provide counseling or a listening ear to you or any member of your family. Your team will also help your parent your new baby while assuring his or her comfort.
Another priority is to create and capture memories during and after the birth of your child. Some considerations around the birth may include:
- Place your naked baby against your chest. Skin to skin care can be very soothing for baby as well as mommy and daddy.
- Comfort measures for your baby may include sucking a pacifier or mom’s breast, oxygen to help ease breathing or medications to relieve discomfort from pain or breathing.
- Don’t forget to take pictures! Capture these precious moments to look at for years to come. Your team can help facilitate photographs as needed.
- Record any cry or other noises your baby makes.
- Your delivery and palliative care teams can offer other memorial keepsakes including foot or handprints, a lock of hair and the baby’s identification bands.
Melissa Fields, NP
Melissa Fields is a pediatric nurse practitioner and Patient Care Coordinator for Community’s Perinatal, Infant and Pediatric Palliative Care and Hospice program. With a bachelor’s degree from Purdue University and Master’s degree from IUPUI, she is also a Certified Hospice and Palliative Pediatric Nurse. Melissa started her career with the network in 2000 as a nurse in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Community North. She has also worked at Community Home Health Services as a hospice nurse case manager.
Melissa is an End-of-Life Nursing Education Consortium (ELNEC) trainer, specializing in the pediatric curricula. The ELNEC project is an international education initiative to improve palliative care. She has also completed and helps facilitate Resolve Through Sharing (RTS) bereavement training for healthcare providers. Melissa is passionate about her work with children and families who are experiencing chronic, life-threatening or life-limiting medical conditions. While getting to know families she works with on a personal level, she can help families determine what is important to them, create a plan, and help them reach individual goals. She also enjoys following families in bereavement and completing that continuum of care.
Melissa lives in Noblesville with her two children. She enjoys spending free time with her family.
Connections of Hope
Connections of Hope is a six-week structured support group for families who have experienced the loss of a pregnancy, infant or young child. Join us as we create connections and a sense of community as we share our stories and talk about the uniqueness of perinatal grief and loss.
To learn more please call InTouch Bereavement at 317-621-4646. Registration is required. Find upcoming grief and bereavement programs >>
Open Arms programs at Community hospitals extend support to families who experience a pregnancy or newborn loss. These free services are coordinated by a Grief Support Person specifically trained to offer support to grieving parents. Services include support by telephone and monthly groups, burial assistance and memorial programs.
Community has two unique newsletters offering education, validation and connection to bereaved families in our community: InTouch Bereavement for loss of a loved one and Connections of Hope for loss of pregnancy or infant. Newsletters are free and mailed several times throughout the year. We care about you and we are here when you need us. Please consider signing up today.