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Healthcare workers can help parents mourn their stillborn baby

Year of publication

Women in sub-Saharan Africa may hide and suppress their grief after having a stillborn baby. A study found that this response, which is in line with cultural norms, was a barrier to the grieving process. It suggested that healthcare workers could help women to express their emotions.

Researchers explored the impact of healthcare workers’ communication about stillbirth on parents. They interviewed women in Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia. The women said that they could not openly express their grief because of cultural expectations.

The researchers found that communication with healthcare professionals influenced women’s experiences of care. The women felt lonely and frustrated when communication was harsh or unclear; they were grateful when professionals took the time to give sensitive explanations. Cultural attitudes and beliefs (such as that grieving for a stillborn baby will affect future pregnancies) meant that many healthcare professionals did not encourage parents to openly mourn. This could leave them feeling isolated.

The team conclude that healthcare professionals should be given training on how to communicate about stillbirth. They call for every country to produce culturally-appropriate guidance.

Date added
Created by
Sylvia Shelton
Published by
Current Awareness Service for Health