Background: Bereaved parents experience higher rates of depressive and post-traumatic stress symptoms after the stillbirth of a baby than after live-birth. Yet, these effects remain underreported in the literature and, consequently, insufficiently addressed in health provider education and practice. We conducted a participatory based study to explore the experiences of grieving parents during their interaction with health care providers during and after the stillbirth of a baby.
Methods: This community-based participatory study utilized four focus groups comprised of twenty-seven bereaved parents (44% fathers). Bereaved parents conceptualized the study, participating at all stages of research, analyses, and drafting. Data were reduced into a main theme and subthemes, then broad-based member checked to ensure fidelity and nuances within themes.
Results: The major theme that emerged centered on provider acknowledgement of the baby as an irreplaceable individual. Subthemes reflected 1) acknowledgement of parenthood and grief, 2) recognition of the traumatic nature of stillbirth, and 3) acknowledgement of enduring grief coupled with access to support. It was important that providers realized how grief was experienced within health care and social support systems, concretized by their desire for long-term, specialized support.
Conclusions: Both mothers and fathers feel that acknowledgement of their baby as an individual, their parenthood, and their enduring traumatic grief by healthcare providers are key elements required in the process of initiating immediate and ongoing care after the stillbirth of a baby.
Keywords: Complicated grief; Grief; Newborn death; Perinatal death; Stillbirth; Traumatic grief.