This study sought to explore labor and delivery (L&D) nurses’ experiences caring for women undergoing induction for intrauterine fetal demise (IUFD) or termination for fetal anomalies, and to characterize reluctance towards participation in abortion care or — conversely — the commitment to provide services.
Researchers conducted a qualitative study that consisted of open-ended, semistructured interviews with 15 registered nurses who care for women on L&D at a large metropolitan hospital. We analyzed these data for content and themes.
Labor and delivery nurses struggle emotionally, logistically, and morally with bereavement care, whether their patients are experiencing an IUFD or termination for fetal anomalies. The analysis generated the following themes: the emotionally intense work of perinatal loss, feelings of incompetence in bereavement care, ethical conflicts, and judgment of both termination and IUFD patients. In addition, nurses who chose to provide care for patients undergoing induction termination for fetal anomalies described a duty to care for all patients despite the increased logistic and emotional burden.
Much of the discomfort L&D nurses reported caring for patients undergoing induction termination stems from the emotional toll, lack of skills, and bureaucratic burden of bereavement care rather than a moral objection to abortion. Instituting interventions to improve staffing, simplify paperwork, augment bereavement training, and improve support for the emotional burden of caring for these patients may therefore increase access to competent and compassionate abortion care.
Labor and delivery nurses struggle with bereavement care whether their patients are experiencing an IUFD or termination for fetal anomalies. Instituting interventions — like interdisciplinary simulation — to support nurses in bereavement care may increase the number willing to participate in abortion care, thereby improving patient access.