Objective: To compare women's reports of aspects of their care during pregnancy, labour and delivery following stillbirth and live birth.
Design: Data were collected by postal questionnaire in 1994.
Setting: A Swedish nation-wide population-based study of cohorts defined in 1991.
Participants: Three hundred and fourteen women with stillbirth (subjects) and 322 women with live birth (controls).
Measurements and findings: Labour and delivery were assessed as physically 'insufferably hard' by 52 (17%) of the subjects and 33 (10%) of the controls. The corresponding figures for emotional strains were 144 (47%) and 21 (7%). Obstetric analgesia was more frequently used during labour for stillbirth. One hundred and thirty-eight (44%) subjects, as compared to 44 (2%) of the controls, left hospital within 24 hours of birth. Almost all the women with stillbirth 296 (95%) stated that it was important to have an explanation of the baby's death. Adverse events related to bromocriptine given to inhibit postpartum lactation, were reported by 60 (22%) of the subjects.
Key conclusions: It is possible to ease the distress of labour and delivery for stillbirth. Discussion of the aetiology of the baby's death with the mother should be a priority. The optimal length of stay in hospital after stillbirth remains to be defined. Non-pharmacological inhibition of lactation may be presented as an alternative to bromocriptine, breast binding is a concrete 'reality confrontation' for the woman and may aid her in her grieving process. Further studies concerning breast binding vs pharmacological inhibition of lactation and long-term psychological outcome are warranted.