The provision of psychosocial support in early pregnancy assessment services in Australia
AuthorClaringbold, Lily Victoria
Document TypeMasters Research thesis
Access StatusThis item is embargoed and will be available on 2022-02-03. This item is currently available to University of Melbourne staff and students only, login required.
© 2019 Lily Victoria Claringbold
Background Miscarriage is a common event estimated to affect up to one in four confirmed pregnancies and can result in significant psychological morbidity. Appropriate psychosocial support at the time of a miscarriage can lead to better psychological outcomes in the months or years following a loss. Early Pregnancy Assessment Services (EPASs) are typically dedicated outpatient clinics in public hospitals designed to manage patients with pain and/or bleeding in early pregnancy and are considered the “gold standard” for miscarriage care. Despite some best-practice recommendations outlining the psychosocial support EPASs should offer, very little is known about what they provide. Aim The aim of this study was to explore the provision of psychosocial support in Early Pregnancy Assessment Services in Australia. Method A mixed method approach utilising audit, field notes and semi-structured interviews was conducted to acquire information on clinic structure and operation, and the provision of psychosocial support. Thirty-one key-informants were recruited from 13 EPASs and two miscarriage support organisations across Australia. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed, and thematically analysed. Results Findings demonstrated considerable variability in how EPASs functioned in Australia, and therefore the provision of psychosocial support. Results were presented in three categories: psychosocial support currently provided, psychosocial support considered ideal by participants, and barriers to changing psychosocial support. Considerable variation in the structure and function of services were observed, such as staffing arrangements, physical location of service, and availability of ultrasonography. However, most participants described the emotional support provided by EPAS staff similarly, noting the importance of acknowledging and validating patients’ feelings, guilt mitigation, and providing individualised care. Referrals for additional psychological support were rarely reported, however many participants discussed the importance of utilising General Practitioners for follow-up and ongoing support. Common barriers to providing ideal psychosocial support was reported and primarily centred around limitations on time and resources, resulting in the physical care of patients taking priority over psychological care. Despite these restrictions, all EPAS staff demonstrated a clear and strong commitment to providing best possible patient care within their own clinical setting and acknowledged the need for improved psychosocial support. Conclusions This study provides the first exploration of Australian EPASs’ provision of psychosocial support. It has demonstrated that health care professionals working in EPASs are dedicated to providing the best possible care to their patients within their clinical setting. Time and funding restrictions were considered major barriers to providing improved psychosocial support. More research into where psychosocial support is best offered is needed to improve patient experience and lower psychological morbidity following miscarriage.
KeywordsMiscarriage; Spontaneous abortion; Psycho-social; Psychosocial; Support; Emotions; Early pregnancy; Early pregnancy loss; Early Pregnancy Assessment
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