Effects of contact with stillborn babies on maternal anxiety and depression

Joanne Cacciatore, Ingela Rådestad, J. Frederik Frøen

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    87 Scopus citations


    Background: Some guidelines encourage mothers to see and hold their babies after stillbirth, which might be traumatizing. The study objective was to investigate the effects of women seeing and holding their stillborn baby on the risk of anxiety and depression in a subsequent pregnancy and in the long term. Methods: Thirty-seven organizations recruited women who had experienced stillbirth (N = 2,292 of whom 286 reported being pregnant). Anxiety and depressive symptoms were assessed by using the 25-item Hopkins Symptom Check List. Results: Among nonpregnant women, seeing and holding their stillborn baby were associated with lower anxiety symptoms (OR 0.68, 95% CI 0.49-0.95) and a tendency toward fewer symptoms of depression (OR 0.72, 95% CI 0.51-1.02), compared with pregnant women. Participants who were pregnant also had less depressive symptomatology (OR 0.57, 95% CI 0.43-0.75), but more symptoms of anxiety if they had seen and held their baby (OR 3.79, 95% CI 1.42-10.1). Conclusions: Seeing and holding the baby are associated with fewer anxiety and depressive symptoms among mothers of stillborn babies than not doing so, although this beneficial effect may be temporarily reversed during a subsequent pregnancy.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)313-320
    Number of pages8
    Issue number4
    StatePublished - Dec 2008


    • Anxiety
    • Depression
    • Fetal death
    • Psychosocial care
    • Stillbirth

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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