Parents' experiences and expectations of care in pregnancy after stillbirth or neonatal death: a metasynthesis

BJOG. 2014 Jul;121(8):943-50. doi: 10.1111/1471-0528.12656. Epub 2014 Mar 4.


Background: Pregnancy after perinatal death is characterised by elevated stress and anxiety, increasing the risk of adverse short-term and long-term outcomes.

Objectives: This metasynthesis aimed to improve understanding of parents' experiences of maternity care in pregnancy after stillbirth or neonatal death.

Search strategy: Six electronic databases were searched using predefined search terms.

Selection criteria: English language studies using qualitative methods to explore the experiences of parents in pregnancy after perinatal loss, were included subject to quality appraisal framework.

Data collection and analysis: Searches were initiated in December 2011 and finalised in March 2013. Studies were synthesised using an interpretive approach derived from meta-ethnography.

Main results: Fourteen studies were included in the synthesis, graded A (no or few flaws, high trustworthiness; n = 5), B (some flaws, unlikely to affect trustworthiness; n = 5) and C (some flaws, possible impact on trustworthiness; n = 4). Three main themes were identified; co-existence of emotions, helpful and unhelpful coping activities and seeking reasssurance through interactions.

Conclusion: Parents' experiences of pregnancy are profoundly altered by previous perinatal death; conflicted emotions, extreme anxiety, isolation and a lack of trust in a good outcome are commonly reported. Emotional and psychological support improves parents' experiences of subsequent pregnancy, but the absence of an evidence base may limit consistent delivery of optimal care within current services.

Keywords: Metasynthesis; neonatal death; perinatal loss; stillbirth; subsequent pregnancy.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Abortion, Spontaneous* / prevention & control
  • Abortion, Spontaneous* / psychology
  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Anxiety / etiology
  • Counseling*
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Maternal Health Services*
  • Maternal-Fetal Relations / psychology*
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Qualitative Research
  • Secondary Prevention
  • Stillbirth* / psychology
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology*
  • Stress, Psychological / prevention & control