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Meeting the Needs of Parents Pregnant and Parenting after a Loss


By Joann O’Leary and Jane Warland

Our recent book, Meeting the Needs of Parents Pregnant and Parenting after a Loss, combines the clinical practice and research of our work with families who have experienced a perinatal loss. Jane more personally in the loss of her stillborn daughter, Emma, and Joann from her work with families who had experienced an unexpected outcome of pregnancy.

Jane and I connected sometime in the late 1990’s when we found out we had both written in the area of pregnancy after loss. In fact, Jane’s book with that title was the first book written on that topic in 1996, and Joann wrote the first chapter in a book on the topic with her colleague Clare Thorwick in 1997. We met in person in Australia in 2001, and Joann returned to do some of her research with families there.

Collaboratively we have learned from each other and now share our knowledge on how to change practice for bereaved families who enter a new pregnancy. Our collaboration lead to providing an intervention model to use during routine medical care to help parents understand that parenting does not begin at birth. We began to promote and teach the concept that the baby is already here during pregnancy.

We visualized unborn babies who were at risk for attachment issues because they were being carried by mothers who were afraid to believe they were even pregnant, fearing this new baby would never be born alive. Further, we believed when parents understood that the unborn baby plays a role in developing a reciprocal relationship during pregnancy this could help prevent stillbirths.

We have offered one-day workshops for helping professionals about this important material and ultimately produced this book to: help professionals who support parents who are pregnant after perinatal loss; and to go wider and deeper than we can possibly go by ourselves.

We’re committed to spread information to parents that the unborn baby’s personality and development can be impacted during pregnancy. Today we have solid research to support that the mother’s stress during pregnancy may indeed impact a child’s personality. Thus, an intervention to help parents know ways to engage with their unborn baby, whether in a low risk pregnancy or one that follows a perinatal loss is an important goal.

Our book outlines specific interventions to use at each stage of pregnancy that facilitates prenatal parenting to connect with the unborn baby. We hope that you find it useful resource, and we thank you for your work with bereaved families.