Exploring midwives' experiences of managing patients' perinatal loss at a maternity hospital in the Western Cape, South Africa
Perinatal deaths are emotion-laden events not only for the mothers, but also for physicians and midwives. Hence, mothers experiencing the phenomenon need support to overcome the experience. If the loss occurs in a health institution, the responsibility of supporting the woman is borne by healthcare providers, particularly midwives. However, limited information exists on how midwives manage patients who experience perinatal loss in health institutions. Consequently, this study on midwives' experiences of managing patients' perinatal loss at a maternity hospital in the Western Cape, South Africa was conducted. The aim of the study was to explore midwives' management of patients with perinatal loss. The study utilised a qualitative research design and employs a phenomenological approach. Purposive sampling was used to select eight registered midwives to participate in the study. Data was collected by means of in-depth unstructured interviews, which were audio-recorded. It was then analysed by utilising Colaizzi's (1978) steps of phenomenological data analysis. Four themes emerged from the data, namely, knowledge of perinatal loss, challenges when managing patients, managing perinatal loss, and getting emotionally involved. Themes were informed by several subthemes. In addition, implication on practice indicates that improving support to mothers with pregnancy loss requires a multi-disciplinary approach or teamwork from various professionals in order to enhance mutual collaboration between families and healthcare workers. The study concludes that nursing education programmes should be reviewed to ensure that they include midwives' needs in the area of managing clients experiencing a perinatal loss. Hence, student midwives should be given more clinical experience of caring for bereaved couples under supervision, as well as compassionate support, which would assist them to develop these skills before they graduate.