Burton leads the way nationally in bereavement midwifery

Burton leads the way nationally in bereavement midwifery
08 March 2017

BURTON Hospitals is leading the way on a national stage when it comes to helping traumatised parents come to terms with the loss of their baby.

The Trust has two specially trained bereavement midwives Sam Evans and Joanne Shillito who provide continued and consistent support to mums and dads as they go through one of the most difficult times of their lives.

Sam undertook innovative training last autumn to learn how to carry out the therapeutic technique ‘Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing’ (EMDR).

Powerful emotions can ‘overwhelm’ the brain when people have suffered a tragic experience or trauma and those memories and thoughts can keep replaying on a continuous loop, forcing the person to repeatedly relive what happened.

The therapy is based on the discovery that eye movements can reduce the intensity of disturbing thoughts and seem to influence the way that the brain functions and processes information.

Memories no longer seem so raw and people can reflect on the past in a way that is less upsetting for them.

Sam explained: “Remembering and reliving the experience of losing a baby can feel as bad as experiencing it for the first time. EMDR is a natural therapy that helps the brain to work through deeply distressing thoughts and memories.”

She is now putting what she learned during the intensive three-day course, held at St George’s Hospital in Stafford, into practice.

Sam added: “I heard about the course from a colleague and joined about 30 other delegates to learn about the techniques of EMDR and how it can help. I understand that psychologists and social workers have been trained in EMDR in recent years, but I may have been one of the first midwives to train in it.”

Sam’s colleague Joanne is also due to take part in the training course which will enable the Trust to double its resources.

The hospital is supporting grieving parents in a number of other ways too. It has a private ‘Snowdrop Suite’ where bereaved parents can spend precious time with their baby and receive specialist support from the hospital’s midwives.

Queen’s Hospital also has a quiet room, which includes a giant image of a tree on the wall where parents can add a leaf bearing the name of their baby.

Special memory boxes are created and given to parents to bring them comfort following the loss of their baby. They can include photographs of the baby along with castings of their hands and feet.

Head of Midwifery Helen Hurst said: “We understand that losing a baby is the most traumatic and life-changing thing that any parent can experience and we want to do all we can to support them through their tragedy.

“We believe that providing support for mums and dads when they need it most is absolutely vital in helping them to cope with what has happened in the long-term which is why we place such an emphasis on the services provided by our bereavement midwives. I am keen for both members of the team to be trained to carry out EMDR as it has been incredibly well received by parents since Sam started practicing it.”

American Clinical Psychologist and Researcher Dr Francine Shapiro is credited with discovering in the late 1980s that eye movements can reduce the intensity of disturbing thoughts and feelings under certain conditions.

Since then EMDR has been widely researched and is now used by trained therapists all over the world to treat people who have suffered severe trauma.

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