Background: Giving birth to a stillborn child is a tragedy. The aim of this study is to investigate the meeting of mothers with their stillborn children and the women's experiences of support during and after the delivery.
Methods: In a nationwide study in Sweden, data from 636 women who gave birth to a stillborn or live baby were collected by means of an anonymous postal questionnaire in 1994.
Results: Among the 314 women who gave birth to a stillborn child, nearly every mother had seen her child, and 80 percent had carressed her baby. More than 90 percent of the mothers stated that the medical staff showed respect, and about 80 percent of the mothers stated that staff exhibited tenderness toward their dead children. The mother's assessment of respect and tenderness to her child by medical staff was almost identical between stillbirths and live births. Nearly 70 percent of the women reported that the hospital had good routines to support mothers of stillborn children. Feelings of sadness and having been deeply hurt or angered by the medical staff's behavior were reported by 37 percent of the women. A difficult balance is still to be achieved between women being forced to encounter the baby when not yet ready versus others who wish the staff had given more encouragement. The value of properly taken photographs is described.
Conclusions: Treating stillbirth as a nonevent has been largely, if not entirely, abandoned in Sweden. Most mothers of a stillborn child experience that the medical staff treat their dead children appropriately.