Midwives experiences of removal of a newborn baby in New South Wales, Australia: Being in the 'head' and 'heart' space

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Women and Birth, 2015, 28 (2), pp. 95 - 100
Issue Date:
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© 2015 Australian College of Midwives. Background: A newborn baby is removed from his/her mother into formal care when he/she is considered at risk of serious harm and it is not in the best interests to go home with their parent(s) or carer(s). In New South Wales (NSW), this removal is known as an "assumption of care". This process is challenging for all involved especially when it occurs soon after birth. There is very limited research to inform midwives in this area of practice. Aim: To explore the experiences of midwives who had been involved in the assumption of care of a baby soon after birth or in the early postnatal period. Method: A qualitative descriptive approach was used. Ten midwives involved with the assumption of care of a baby were interviewed. A thematic analysis was undertaken. Findings: There were two overarching themes. "Being in the head space" represented the activities, tasks and/or processes midwives engaged in when involved in an assumption of care. "Being in the heart space" described the emotional impact on midwives, as well as their perceptions on how women were affected. Conclusion: Midwives described feeling unprepared and unsupported, in both the processes and the impact of assumption of care. They were confronted by this profound emotional work and described experiencing professional grief, similar to that felt when caring for a woman experiencing a stillbirth. In the future, midwives need to be provided with support to ensure that they can effectively care for these women and also manage the emotional impact themselves.
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