The First "Rainbow Clinic" Opens in the U.S. For Parents Who've Experienced Stillbirth

The staff receives special training to be sensitive to the unique needs of bereaved parents.

By: Amanda Mushro
Photo Taken In Palmyra, United States

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Photo Taken In Palmyra, United States

Photo by: Stephanie Montgomery / EyeEm

Stephanie Montgomery / EyeEm

The term "rainbow baby" is often used to describe a pregnancy that occurs after a loss such as a miscarrage or stillbirth. While carrying a "rainbow baby" can be a time full of hope and joy, it can also be extremely stressful, full of anxiety, and emotional for the mom. Families who are expecting their rainbow baby require special care to manage all of those feelings and expectations during their pregnancy, and now New York’s Mount Sinai has created a Rainbow Clinic that is designed to do just that.

Across the country, about 23,000 pregnancies, or about one in 170 births, result in a stillbirth each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The staff at the Rainbow Clinic understand the challenges that occur during a pregnancy after such a devastating loss. "Women and their families who have had a stillborn child need emotional support, the most advanced medical attention, and someone to walk beside them — every step of the way," the clinic's website states.

The Rainbow Clinic at Mount Sinai is the first of its kind in the United States and was created out of a partnership with PUSH for Empowered Pregnancy, which is an organization that seeks to prevent stillbirths.

According to hospital officials, the staff receive special training in order to be sensitive to the unique needs of expecting parents who are also dealing with grief. They offer support, nutritional counseling, genetic testing, as well as prenatal and obstetrical care.

For parents looking to conceive after a stillbirth, Dr. Joanne Stone, who practices at the Rainbow Clinic, told CBS, the staff uses a variety of tests to help determine the cause of a previous stillbirth to help families navigate their feelings and anxieties during their next preganies.

"In the case of unexplained, we sort of outline a plan that really involves much closer surveillance," Stone says. "We have tests, ultrasound ways of monitoring the fetus."

Since every patient is different and their needs are so different, the Rainbow Clinic recognizes that the care each mom-to-be will need will vary. The staff creates a customized program around the needs of each patient and their family.

"It really is addressing not only the medical needs of the patient but also the emotional needs," says Dr. Stone.

From mental health support, nutritional guidance, ultrasounds, enhanced monitoring and fetal testing services, and other tests during the progression of the pregnancy, patients get extra support every step of the way.

The team at the Rainbow Clinic monitors the development of the "rainbow baby" more frequently than is typical, and women are encouraged to schedule appointments as often as they want — with absolutely no judgment.

Also to help minimize their anxiety, moms will also get counseling to get to know the movements of their baby so they can feel confident that their baby is doing well or if they need to come in to check on the baby. Since fetal movement is different in the morning, during the day, and at night, moms get detailed instructions on what they should watch for and when it’s time to call their doctor. "We underline the importance of coming in immediately for examination because timely intervention can make all the difference," the hospital’s website states.

According to the hospital, the first Rainbow Clinic was established in the United Kingdom in 2013 by Alexander Heazell, who was an internationally recognized leader in stillbirth research. His goal was to provide specialized care to women and their families who have experienced a loss during pregnancy.

The Rainbow Clinic is also involved in extensive research to learn more about the causes of stillbirth and collaborate with the Rainbow Clinic in the U.K. to conduct research so doctors are able to better understand the factors that lead to complications in pregnancy and to provide better care and support for moms and babies. Research shows more than a quarter of stillbirths in the U.S. are preventable with increased awareness, support, and high-quality care, and the Rainbow Clinic ultimately hopes they can offer the care and support needed.

A pregnancy after a loss deserves special care, and the families who become patients at the Rainbow Clinic know they will receive the treatments and respect they deserve. Hopefully, more Rainbow Clinics will open up across the country so that more women can experience their support.

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