AFE Families Still Hospitalized

First, if you have found yourself on this page we understand what you must be feeling and are here to help. Our goal is to help you better understand AFE and its physical and emotional impacts before returning home.

Experiencing an AFE is an unexpected and traumatic event for everyone involved. There are some helpful things you can do while a loved one is hospitalized. Below are resources and recommendations to assist you while your loved one remains hospitalized. For more information about AFE, be sure to check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Helpful Steps and Information for the Hours and Days Following an AFE

Asking For and Receiving Help

Allow people to help. One of the common responses we hear is that sometimes you don’t know what help you need. Many of the items on this list can be done or started by someone else. Ask a close family member or friend to help manage the tasks below. You will find many people will want to help, even strangers. Be sure to keep the contact information of those offering to help. You may not have an immediate need but may discover one later.

Communicate Your Loved One’s Condition Efficiently

Spouses and family members can spend precious hours providing updates to others. Instead, designate one person to be the director of all connections. Determine the most effective and efficient way to communicate with others.
We recommend using the website to communicate your loved one’s condition and highlight the family’s needs. There are FREE and EASY-to-use website templates for those facing a medical crisis.

Helpful items to include on a website are:

  • Daily updates
  • Photos
  • Prayer requests or spiritual assistance
  • Meals
  • Flowers
  • Monetary donations

Be sure to also include whether you would like visitors and list those times. Priority should be rest for the patient as well as the family. Consider having a guestbook for well-wishers to leave messages of hope and comfort rather than visiting. The guestbook has proven to be helpful during the recovery process.

Caring for a Newborn While Mom is Hospitalized

It can be extremely challenging to manage the care of your loved one in addition to caring for a newborn child. If the baby’s condition is stable they will most likely remain in the NICU or nursery for observation. Talk to the baby’s healthcare team to have them admitted for observation while your loved one remains in the hospital.

Due to COVID, some hospitals may still limit access to the baby. Consider the option to have one person in charge of the baby’s care and one person in charge of the mother’s care. It will be important to have that person attend all physicians’ consults. This will be especially important if the baby suffered problems during delivery.

Many people will want to see and visit the baby once they are discharged. Please consider the mother’s feelings and be mindful of passing germs or illness to the baby or other children. Respiratory Syncytial Virus or RSV can cause serious illness in infants under 12 months. It is important to balance being helpful with childcare and keeping children healthy.

Discuss feeding options with the NICU and postpartum staff. Depending on the baby’s condition, they typically begin with IV fluids and then transition to formula. If mama had planned on breastfeeding, she still may be able to once she becomes stable. Even if the baby is given formula the mother may still be able to successfully breastfeed. Once she is able, she may begin to pump her breast milk and breastfeed once medications have cleared her system. This is a delicate decision and should be made for the mother’s intentions and in the best interest for her health. It is okay to encourage the mother to breastfeed if she is able. It is also important to assure and comfort her if she is not able or desires not to breastfeed. The most important priority should be on the mother and baby’s health and their ability to bond.

If conditions allow, the baby may spend time with the mother in ICU. If this is not possible be sure to take pictures and video of the baby for the mother. It can be a sad experience for the mother not to have seen or spent time with her newborn. Photos and videos will help bridge this gap. It is recommended to have photos of older children, pets or other memorable photos in her room.

If the baby is released before mom, identify people who will help the father with the baby. Keep in mind that it will be disappointing for the mother to not be the primary caregiver. Choosing someone who is respectful of these feelings is essential. Maintain a daily log of their activities and milestones and take a lot of photos and videos. These will prove helpful during the mother’s recovery.

Be sure to add the baby to the health insurance policy. This is important to do as soon as possible to avoid any medical billing issues. Be sure to provide the hospital with the updated information.

Caring for Older Children While Mom is Hospitalized

The emotions and needs of older children will vary depending on the children’s age. Confusion and fear are the most common emotions older children will experience. Older children can feel sad, isolated, angry and alone. It is important to keep their routine as normal as possible. You may have them stay with a close relative or friend. This could limit their exposure to the stress of the situation.

Consider asking friends to give gifts to older siblings instead of for the new baby. New toys, games, books or videos may provide a welcome distraction.

Hospital social workers may be a helpful source of advice. They should be able to provide resources to assist with explaining the situation to the child.

Those interacting with the child (daycare providers, teachers, etc) to be aware of the situation. Children may manifest their stress in unexpected ways. This could include regression in potty training, unusual tantrums, anger, withdrawal, difficulty napping, etc. It is important that they understand the situation and are able to respond empathetically.

Preserving Memories For Mom and Baby

Photos and Videos

Put someone in charge of taking photographs and videos of the baby and those coming to visit mom. Many survivors will suffer from memory loss and will be curious about the moments they missed. Due to the trauma and heavy medications they may forget the moments they experienced. Consider taking the photos and holding them until your loved one is ready to see them.

Taking Notes / Journaling

Write things down so there will be a record of what happened while the mother was in the hospital. Keep a detailed journal of your loved ones daily activities and thoughts. Write about the days or hours before the delivery as most survivors will have memory loss. Include the names of all healthcare providers you may come across. These will be important for future reference to address concerns or offer notes of appreciation. Keep the journal by the bed, so it can be accessed. Electronic tablets or iPads are great tools to help document the event.

AFE Clinical Summary Form

Have the important clinical details of your care all in one place!

Our AFE Survivor Clinical Summary is a two-page editable PDF document. It is designed to summarize aspects of your care to assist you in insight of what happened to your body.

You can ask your OBGYN, Midwife, or another primary healthcare provider to help you complete it. Most can access your medical records and complete a good portion of the form. If they are unable to help you, you may use this as a guide when reviewing your medical records.

The summary form serves as a great way to inform other healthcare providers in the continuity of your care. These can be follow-up visits with specialists or mental health providers. It aims to minimize the triggers with retelling the event. It gives healthcare providers a quick and simple format to get up to speed on what you experienced.

Receiving and Managing Help

Meal Trains

When coming home from the hospital people may volunteer to deliver a meal as a way to help. Ask a family member or friend to coordinate the process. Include friends, co-workers, neighbors and church members.

Set a specific time for meals to be delivered. You may also consider requesting meals be left in a cooler placed by the front door.

Determine the portions needed or have the meals planned to come every other day. Otherwise, your fridge could fill up quickly and become hard to manage. Have the coordinator be in charge of making sure the fridge is cleaned out once a week.

Be sure to make note of any food allergies, preferences or limitations. Have the coordinator keep a log of people who provide meals so you can thank them at a later time.

Gift cards for Door Dash, Uber Eats, Grub Hub and Postmates are also great options.

Below are a few websites that help coordinate meal deliveries with ease.

Groceries /Errands

General errands can be given to others after your loved one is hospitalized. Have someone make a list of the essentials you need. Consider snacks for other children, toiletries or anything else your family may need.

AFE Research Opportunity!

You are likely being forced to make difficult decisions right away. There is a way your loved one's experience would not be in vain. There is an important and time-sensitive opportunity to have them participate in research.

They could have blood specimens that would otherwise be discarded that could used for our study. We would not ask for any additional specimens to be taken from your loved one.

We believe blood and tissue specimens from women who suffer an AFE hold critical clues that can help researchers. This could help develop prevention and treatment so that no future mothers and babies will die. To learn more or to begin the process of enrolling your loved one contact us at:

1-307-END-AFES (1-307-363-2337).

Help us #endAFE!

The AFE Foundation is funded by donations. Every dollar goes toward our support, research, and education programs. We are committed to turning donations into action, including yours.