Perinatal Loss: A Handbook for Working with Women and their Families Authors Sheila Broderick and Ruth Cochrane. Radcliffe Publishing Ltd., 2012 ISBN: 978-1846199806 Paperback, 168 pages, £24.99

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While there are many books on stillbirth, miscarriage and perinatal loss written from a bereaved parent's perspective, there are very few specifically aimed at healthcare professionals. This handbook thoroughly covers the many issues that arise in caring for parents who have lost a baby.

I am now a senior registrar in obstetrics and gynaecology. To date, perinatal loss is not something that has been formally ‘taught’. Rather, the knowledge and skills to be able to manage the loss of a baby have been acquired through experience, some good and some bad. I've often felt that a quick and easy source of information for doctors would be invaluable. This book covers the legal framework, the necessary paperwork and investigations that can be offered to couples, allowing doctors and midwives more confidence when discussing these issues. Additionally, the chapters on what to do with the baby and funeral arrangements were particularly useful as these processes are not generally well understood by healthcare professionals, particularly doctors, yet are of great importance to the grieving couple and their families.

The handbook is well written and easy to read. I enjoyed the personal examples given by the authors to illustrate particular points as one can easily relate to their experiences. For example, the following vignette demonstrating the importance of choosing your words carefully was particularly effective.

‘ … I remember being with a father when he looked at his stillborn baby daughter. As he cradled her in his arms, I quietly said to him “she looks perfect” and he looked up and corrected me, saying “she is perfect”.’

The section on twin loss and the various scenarios that can arise was useful, in particular to stimulate thought on the impact of survival of one twin and loss of the other. How do parents react to simultaneous emotions of the birth of one child and the grief of losing the other? What are the long-term implications to the family?

The final chapter in the book focuses on training and explores various learning techniques that can be employed. The authors give emphasis to the importance of role play, however, among my peer group, role play tends to be universally disliked and it is difficult to encourage participation. I wondered whether an alternative strategy, such as an e-learning (see Related resources, below) or lecture package to impart theoretical knowledge followed by group work (rather than role play) to explore ideas and share experiences would perhaps be better received.

In summary, the book is an excellent guide to fetal loss and a good source of reference for healthcare workers of all disciplines. It is essential reading for anyone involved with fetal loss and is a valuable asset to any women's health department.

Related resources

StratOG

Intrauterine fetal death. http://www.rcog.org.uk/stratog/page/introduction-intrauterine-fetal-death

Fellows, Members and registered trainees of the RCOG can access StratOG Core Training eTutorials as a benefit of membership.

Ancillary