Background Exposure to adverse perinatal events can impact on the way healthcare professionals (HCPs) provide patient care. The aim of this study was to document the experiences of HCPs following exposure to intrapartum death (IPD), to identify opinions surrounding education and suitable support strategies, and to ascertain if involvement with an IPD had any impact on clinical practice.
Methods A questionnaire study, with open and closed questions, was developed and set in a tertiary maternity hospital. Consultant obstetricians, trainee obstetricians and midwives were invited to participate. Respondents were questioned about the impact that an intrapartum death had on them, the support they received in the immediate aftermath and their opinions regarding ongoing education and training in the areas of intrapartum death and self-care.
Results Eighty percent of HCPs in our study had a direct involvement with an IPD. Most (82%) HCPs received no training in dealing with IPD while 94% had no education on self-care strategies. Despite it being desired by most (80%), debriefing was offered to just 11% of HCPs who were involved in an IPD. Three main qualitative themes emerged from the data; the personal impact of IPDs on HCPs, implications for professional practice and future patient care, and the importance on non-judgemental support.
Conclusion Maternity hospitals need to improve their support structures for HCPs following an IPD. It is hoped that this study will inform future educational practice and identify potential support strategies.