The impact of stillbirth on bereaved parents: A qualitative study
Purpose: To explore the lived experiences and personal impact of stillbirth on bereaved parents. Methods: Semi-structured in-depth interviews analysed by Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) on a purposive sample of parents of twelve babies born following fetal death at a tertiary university maternity hospital in Ireland with a birth rate of c8,500 per annum and a stillbirth rate of 4.6/1000. Results: Stillbirth had a profound and enduring impact on bereaved parents. Four superordinate themes relating to the human impact of stillbirth emerged from the data: maintaining hope, importance of the personhood of the baby, protective care and relationships (personal and professional). Bereaved parents recalled in vivid detail their experiences of care following diagnosis of stillbirth and their subsequent care. The time between diagnosis of a life-limiting anomaly or stillbirth and delivery is highlighted as important for parents as they find meaning in their loss. Conclusions: The impact of stillbirth on bereaved parents is immense and how parents are cared for is recalled in precise detail as they revisit their experience. Building on existing literature, these data bring to light the depth of personal experience and impact of stillbirth for parents and provides medical professionals with valuable insights to inform their care of bereaved parents and the importance of clear and sensitive communication.