Objective To explore how placental pathology is currently used by clinicians and what placental information would be most useful in the immediate hours after delivery. Study design We used a qualitative study design to conduct in-depth, semi-structured interviews with obstetric and neonatal clinicians who provide delivery or postpartum care at an academic medical center in the US (n = 19). Interviews were transcribed and analyzed using descriptive content analysis. Results Clinicians valued placental pathology information yet cited multiple barriers that prevent the consistent use of pathology. Four main themes were identified. First, the placenta is sent to pathology for consistent reasons, however, the pathology report is accessed by clinicians inconsistently due to key barriers: difficult to find in the electronic medical record, understand, and get quickly. Second, clinicians value placental pathology for explanatory capability as well as for contributions to current and future care, particularly when there is fetal growth restriction, stillbirth, or antibiotic use. Third, a rapid placental exam (specifically including placental weight, infection, infarction, and overall assessment) would be helpful in providing clinical care. Fourth, placental pathology reports that connect clinically relevant findings (similar to radiology) and that are written with plain, standardized language and that non-pathologists can more readily understand are preferred. Conclusion Placental pathology is important to clinicians that care for mothers and newborns (particularly those that are critically ill) after birth, yet many problems stand in the way of its usefulness. Hospital administrators, perinatal pathologists, and clinicians should work together to improve access to and contents of reports. Support for new methods to provide quick placenta information is warranted.
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