Holding a stillborn baby: the view from a specialist perinatal bereavement service

Wilson, Patricia A., Boyle, Frances M. and Ware, Robert S. (2015) Holding a stillborn baby: the view from a specialist perinatal bereavement service. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 55 4: 337-343. doi:10.1111/ajo.12327

Author Wilson, Patricia A.
Boyle, Frances M.
Ware, Robert S.
Title Holding a stillborn baby: the view from a specialist perinatal bereavement service
Journal name Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 0004-8666
Publication date 2015-06-30
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1111/ajo.12327
Volume 55
Issue 4
Start page 337
End page 343
Total pages 7
Place of publication Richmond, VIC Australia
Publisher Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Asia
Collection year 2016
Language eng
Formatted abstract
Stillbirth is a profoundly distressing event. Little evidence exists to guide best practice bereavement care in the perinatal setting.

To document parents' experiences and outcomes in relation to seeing and holding a stillborn baby at a hospital with a specialist perinatal bereavement service.

Materials and Methods
Prospective cohort study of 26 mothers and 11 fathers who experienced a stillbirth at the Mater Mothers' Hospital, Brisbane from September 2007–December 2008. Mailed self-report questionnaires were completed at 6–8 weeks and 6 and 13 months postloss. Validated measures assessed regret regarding the decision to see and hold the baby, parental grief and mental health.

Of 78 fetal deaths, 26 mothers and 11 fathers participated. Most (20 mothers; 9 fathers) chose to see and hold their stillborn infant. Little regret was reported, irrespective of the decision. For mothers, seeing and holding was associated with higher ‘active grief’ at 6–8 weeks (mean difference (MD) = 10.5; 95% CI = 3.3–17.8; P < 0.01), 6 months (MD = 8.0; 95% CI = 0.6–15.4; P = 0.03) and 13 months (MD = 9.9; 95% CI = 1.8–17.9; P = 0.01), but not with ‘not coping’ or ‘despair’, or mental health. Fathers reported poorer mental health but small numbers mean estimates are imprecise.

More intense grief does not equate with poorer mental health for mothers who choose to see and hold a stillborn infant. Fathers' experiences warrant further study. Supported decision-making is important for bereaved parents, and rigorous evaluation of bereavement care is essential.
Keyword Bereavement
Delivery of Health Care
Perinatal Loss
Pregnancy outcome
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Official 2016 Collection
School of Public Health Publications
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Created: Mon, 06 Jul 2015, 12:24:00 EST by Dr Fran Boyle on behalf of School of Public Health