Objective: to determine if the way caregivers offer opportunities to see and hold a stillborn baby impacts a mother's feelings about the experience of seeing and holding her newborn.
Design and setting: a web questionnaire hosted by the Swedish National Infant Foundation from March 2008 to April 2010.
Participants: 840 eligible participants who had experienced a stillbirth after the 22nd gestational week from 1955 to 2010 and completed an online questionnaire about their experiences.
Methods: descriptive and inferential statistics.
Findings: when mothers were presented the baby as a normal part of birth without being asked if they wanted to see, they more often reported that the experience was comfortable compared to mothers who were asked if they wanted to see the baby 86% vs. 76% (p=<0.01). The incitation of fear in mothers was 70% vs. 80% (p=0.02) in favour of mothers who were not asked. Furthermore the mothers who were not asked more often stated that it felt natural and good when compared to those who said staff asked if the mother wanted to see, 73% vs. 61% (p=0.07) and (78%) vs. (69%) p=0.19, respectively. A trend was seen toward more mothers feeling natural, good, comfortable, and less frightened if the provider engaged in 'assumptive bonding', that is the baby is simply and naturally presented to the mother without asking her to choose.
Key conclusions: mothers of stillborn babies felt more natural, good, comfortable and less frightened if the staff supported assumptive bonding by simply offering the baby to the mother.
Implications for practice: care providers should approach caring for grieving mothers with tenderness and humility, assuming that they will wish to see and hold their stillborn baby.
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