Butterfly suites are caring for the grieving parents of stillborn babies

Posted in Birth.

Queensland is leading the way when it comes to caring for the parents of babies who are stillborn, an ABC report reveals.

Content warning: This post discusses stillbirth and may be upsetting for some readers.

Butterfly Suites for grieving parents

Last year Sunshine Coast University Hospital (SCUH) opened a ‘butterfly suite’ recognising the need for purpose-built facilities where grieving parents can recover from childbirth, spend precious time with their baby and be separate from other women and babies in the hospital.

The SCUH butterfly suite was designed by midwives, with the need for a dedicated environment for parents of stillborn babies first flagged almost ten years ago.

In Australia, the stillbirth rate is heartbreakingly high, with six babies being stillborn every day – a rate that has been unchanged for decades. With a government inquiry into stillbirth in Australia underway, it’s heartening to see that families coping with loss are being offered more specialised, private compassionate care away from other new parents.

The inquiry has been spearheaded by Labor senator and former NSW Premier Kristina Keneally who lost her baby Caroline to stillbirth in 1999. It will make its first report to Parliament in 2019.

  Read more about stillbirth:

Caring for families at the most difficult time

SCUH’s butterfly suite has been built with the challenges grieving families face in mind.

It has a separate entrance, two rooms with ensuites that can accommodate a woman and her partner and also a kitchenette area. There is also a special room in the suite that houses a cot with internal cooling, which means families can have their babies with them as long as they need. (Without these cooling cots, babies need to be taken back and forth to the mortuary – and uniting baby and mum involved multiple hospital staff.)

“We all knew what was needed at SCUH to give something special and private, and less traumatic I suppose for those families,” SCUH maternity ward nursing unit manager Cheryl Rutherford told the ABC.

In this dedicated space “they can’t hear other mums and bubs; visually it’s calming and separate,” Cheryl explained.

SCUH says 45 mums (and their partners or support person) have stayed in the facility since it opened its doors 18 months ago.

We hope similar units can roll out across the country to support families during these intensely difficult days. 

If you’re struggling with the loss of a baby, please don’t go it alone. SANDS counsellors are there to support you and provide helpful advice about living with loss.


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