The effects of social support on maternal anxiety and depression after stillbirth

Health Soc Care Community. 2009 Mar;17(2):167-76. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2524.2008.00814.x.


While most births result in a live baby, stillbirth (the birth of a dead baby) occurs in nearly 1 in 110 pregnancies. This study examined whether levels of maternal anxiety and depression are lower amongst mothers who received social support after stillbirth. Using non-probability sampling, data were collected from 769 mothers residing within the USA who experienced a stillbirth within the past 18 months and for whom we have complete data. The study Maternal Observations and Memories of Stillbirth and the website containing the questionnaire were open in the period 8 February 2004-15 September 2005. Congruent with the family stress and coping theory, mothers of stillborn babies who perceived family support in the period after stillbirth experienced levels of anxiety and depression that were notably lower than those of their counterparts. Nurses, physicians and support groups also were important sources of support after a stillbirth; however, these sources of support alone were not statistically significant in reducing anxiety and depression in grieving mothers. Community interventions should focus on the grieving mother and her family system, including her partner and surviving children.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Anxiety / etiology*
  • Caregivers*
  • Depression, Postpartum / etiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Maternal Welfare*
  • Pregnancy
  • Psychometrics
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Perception
  • Social Support*
  • Stillbirth*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / etiology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / prevention & control
  • Stress, Psychological*