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Sociological and psychological effects of stillbirth: theory, research, and midwifery

02 October 2019
6 min read
Volume 27 · Issue 10

Abstract

Stillbirth rates in the UK remain among the highest in Europe despite national efforts to reduce the number of avoidable deaths. The grief experienced by parents following stillbirth is both devastating and complex, and receiving compassionate and effective midwifery care at this vulnerable time is essential. This article uses psychological and sociological theories and perspectives to examine grief following stillbirth, and look at how these findings relate to midwifery practice.

When a baby dies after 24 weeks gestation, it is defined as stillbirth (Tommy's, 2019) and, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS, 2018), 3 200 babies are stillborn in the UK every year. Although declining, the rate of stillbirth in the UK remains among the highest in Europe (Draper et al, 2017). Initiatives such as ‘Saving Babies' Lives’ (O'Connor, 2016) and ‘Each Baby Counts’ (The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, 2017) set national targets to reduce the number of stillborn babies in the UK. In order to achieve these targets, health interventions that directly reduce risk factors must be introduced, including those aimed at reducing the deprivation gap in stillbirths that still exists in the UK (Best et al, 2019).

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