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Palliative Care Center

Neonatal Palliative Care: Focus on Life

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Neonatal Palliative Care: Pregnancy

Before birth, health care providers will assist parents in putting all plans in place for the baby's birth, life, and possible death. When a baby is expected to live longer than a couple of days, parents often have the option of taking the baby home. In certain cases, perinatal hospice services can assist in planning the transition home and arrange in-home care with the parents.

Care at this time may focus in part on the psychosocial and spiritual wellbeing of the parents and siblings. Families will be referred to a social worker or other mental health professional and, if desired, to a hospital chaplain.

Parents are permitted to include relatives, close friends, or clergy in their consultations and decision making. Child life specialists can assist with seeing that siblings' emotional needs are met and that their questions are answered.

Neonatal Palliative Care: Delivery

When a newborn is not expected to live long after birth - be it hours, days, or weeks - the birth plan may include limiting the number of people in the delivery room.

For a normal birth, there may be several health care professionals in the room. For a newborn with a short life expectancy, depending on what life-prolonging measures will be taken, the delivery may be attended only by the doctor. This helps to make the delivery as simple and intimate as possible and maximizes the time parents can spend alone with their child.

Neonatal Palliative Care: Life

Focusing on life, and not entirely on death, is a major objective of neonatal palliative care. In addition to addressing any pain or discomfort the newborn may experience, the palliative care team will do what it can to ensure the newborn's life is a positive experience for the parents and siblings.

The team will help plan for the parents to have the opportunity to parent their baby. This could be through cuddling, breast feeding, diapering, or dressing the baby. Some neonatal ICUs teach parents how to massage their newborn to ease pain or discomfort.

Parents and siblings will also have opportunities to make memories with the newborn. The baby's handprints and footprints can oftentimes be made. Locks of hair can be saved. Pictures and videos can be made by professionals trained to photograph newborns in the ICU. Arrangements can sometimes be made to take the baby outdoors or to a peaceful non-medical environment. Religious ceremonies can be carried out by hospital chaplains or clergy brought in by the family.

If the family wishes to take their baby home, the goal of care will be to facilitate the baby's transition home as soon as possible.

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