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Neonatal palliative care, sometimes called perinatal hospice care, usually involves a holistic approach to caring for babies expected to die soon after birth. Besides the care provided by your doctors and medical team, an integral part of this approach is also the opportunity for parents and other family members to meet and bond with the baby immediately after birth. We strive to help families make memories before their babies birthday, as well as anticipate the bereavement process following the baby’s passing. We will also talk about ways to proactively work through any anticipated emotions and feelings.
SOME COMMON LIFE-LIMITING PRENATAL CONDITIONS/DIAGNOSES (partial listing)
When prenatal screening and subsequent diagnostic tests return a definitive diagnosis of a condition with a poor prognosis, parents may face the decision of whether to continue the pregnancy.
A pregnancy termination under these conditions is sometimes called medically based or medically indicated termination. Parents may also end up considering a medically based termination when rare pregnancy or other health complications pose a notable threat to the mother's life if she continues the pregnancy.
When parents choose to terminate a pregnancy because of severe medical conditions in the baby, the medical procedure is technically a second-trimester abortion or a "late-term" abortion—and it is technically elective because parents can choose whether to let nature take its course or to end the pregnancy.
Three Little Birds supports all families facing these situations with complete, non-judgmental support. We can provide you with information that can help you make informed consent and we can assist you in making memories and the most of your time with your baby even if you choose to terminate. We also support families post-partum as they heal physically and emotionally from their loss.
CARRYING TO TERM
The words “carrying to term” refers to staying pregnant the full nine months or until a baby is ready to be born, but the phrase has also come to mean the choice to continue with a pregnancy despite a terminal fetal diagnosis.
Many couples will choose to carry their baby to term. They see this as a way to parent their newest family member and cherish whatever moments they have before and after the child’s birth. Families call this a gift of time – time to affirm, honor and celebrate their baby’s life.
Choosing to carry to term is not an easy decision for any parent, but those who have done so voice no regret. Parents often say they would do it again to relive the time they had with their baby, whether it was 10 minutes or 10 days.
PALLIATIVE CARE SUPPORT SERVICES AVAILABLE REGARDLESS OF BIRTH OPTION
Three Little Birds Perinatal & Palliative Care Advocacy & Support Center has developed a comprehensive Palliative Care Support Package for families who receive a life-limiting or uncertain prenatal diagnosis. The focus of our services is to bond families together to embrace their situation, understand their options and take control over what they can to have the best possible experience on the worst day of their lives. Services available to Three Little Birds families include:
Before and after your baby passes, you will usually have the choice to spend time alone with your baby. You can find comfort in looking at, touching, and talking to your baby. Most parents find it helpful to make memories of this precious time that will last a lifetime. It is possible to bond with a baby despite passing away. Here are a few ways you can make memories with your baby:
You will be able to spend as much time as you need with your baby, but at some point you will need to say goodbye. This will probably be one of the most challenging things to do because it is so final. Allow yourself to cry; expressing emotion is natural in the grieving process. Having the keepsakes will remind you that a part of your baby will always be with you.
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Kristen Samuelson, SBD, Founder & Director