Fetal death/stillbirth is one of the most stressful life events. This topic will discuss maternal care after a fetal demise/stillbirth, including parental support and counseling. Other issues related to fetal demise/stillbirth are reviewed separately:
●(See "Fetal demise and stillbirth: Incidence, etiology, and prevention".)
●(See "Evaluation of stillbirth".)
Almost one-half of late fetal deaths occur in apparently uncomplicated pregnancies, usually before labor begins; thus, most parents are unprepared when told that the fetus has died. The family's anticipation of a joyous birth is supplanted by sadness, despair, confusion, and loss, including loss of a desired child, loss of self-esteem as a parent, and loss of confidence in the ability to produce a healthy child . Psychological sequelae include depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, and anxiety, which may adversely affect a subsequent pregnancy .
In a study in which one or both parents of 31 stillborn infants were interviewed twice regarding their views and experiences in the transitional process after the birth of a stillborn child, the interviewees described six "qualities" that summarized what they wanted from their caregivers: support in meeting with and separating from the baby, support in chaos, support in bereavement, explanation of the stillbirth, organization of their care, and understanding the nature of grief .