Stillbirth: The mother's experience and implications for improving care

Joanne Cacciatore, Suzanne Bushfield

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    63 Scopus citations


    More children die as a result of stillbirth than all other causes of infant deaths combined (Ananth, Shiliang, Kinzler, and Kramer, 2005; Goldenberg, Kirby, and Culhane, 2004; Froen, 2005; National Institute of Health, 2004); yet, mothers experiencing stillbirth are often left without support afterwards (Kubler-Ross, 2004; Fahey-McCarthy, 2003; Fletcher 2002; Saddler, 1987; DeFrain, 1986; Kirkley-Best & Kellner, 1982). Despite social work's growing involvement in care at the end of life, parents of stillborn children have not experienced consistent, relevant, and competent professional care in coping with the tragedy of death. Forty-seven women between the ages of 19 and 51 were recruited through nonprofit agencies that provide bereavement care to grieving families. Results of this qualitative study suggest that stillbirth is emotionally complex with long-lasting symptoms of grief and significant struggles to find meaning. The findings also support the need for perceived psychosocial and spiritual support from professional caregivers, family, and friends. The women's own experiences argue for comprehensive approaches to support the grief and loss of stillbirth, and for the importance of social work involvement in both immediate and longer term interventions.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)59-79
    Number of pages21
    JournalJournal of Social Work in End-of-Life and Palliative Care
    Issue number3
    StatePublished - Dec 5 2007


    • Stillbirth
    • grief
    • pediatric death
    • social support
    • spiritual support

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Health(social science)
    • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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