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An exploration of mothers’ experiences of support following their baby being stillborn

Squires, C.E. (2021). An exploration of mothers’ experiences of support following their baby being stillborn. (Unpublished Doctoral thesis, City, University of London)

Abstract

Aims: Previous research has documented the medical point of view of stillbirth, with some studies looking at the emotional impact of mothers holding their babies. Others explore the effect of stillbirth on mental health in such outcomes as PTSD, PND, anxiety and depression. Yet, despite recognising the impacts on mothers, there is little detail in this previous research regarding the nature of supportive or unsupportive interactions following stillbirth. This study aimed to explore women’s experiences of support following stillbirth.

Method: Semi-structured interviews were undertaken with 14 women who had experienced a stillbirth. The interviews were analysed using Braun and Clark’s (2006) method of thematic analysis.

Results: The analysis yielded 17 themes organised into four domains: (1) The need for connection with my…; (2) A system of support – is it there?; (3) I guess I need to find support myself; and (4) The joy and fear of pregnancy after stillbirth. Limitations to receiving support included not wanting to burden others, lack of guidance, fear, and being pregnant again, so talking about the loss was too much. Opportunities to speak openly were rare, but when women could find support, they felt understood and validated. Having the ability to talk in a private and preferably 1:1 space created a very positive reaction in and was a strong desire of the mothers.

Conclusions: The findings are consistent with previous research, suggesting a great need for further infrastructure and research on the specific support required by women and broader members of their networks following stillbirth. They also confirm that social support following stillbirth is immensely valued. There is a potential role for healthcare professionals to work together to offer support and guidance to women and their families in navigating the initial period of grief and aiding them in managing any subsequent pregnancy.

Publication Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
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