Provision of Meaningful Care at Diagnosis, Birth, and after Stillbirth: A Qualitative Synthesis of Parents' Experiences

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Abstract

Background:

The care provided to parents experiencing stillbirth can have significant and lasting impacts on their immediate and long-term psychological well being. The aim of this qualitative synthesis was to investigate parents' experiences of care received during and after stillbirth.

Methods:

Qualitative findings extracted from 20 included studies were pooled using a meta-aggregative approach.

Results:

Four meta-syntheses encompassing parents' experiences of care at diagnosis of stillbirth, induction and birth, immediately postbirth and onwards, revealed care strategies that parents appreciated and found helpful, and also actions and behaviors that were distressing. Helpful strategies included a warm and sensitive communication style, provision of clear and understandable information, shared decision making, and respect for individual needs and preferences. Parents appreciated guidance from health care professionals about seeing and holding, including being prepared for their baby's possible appearance, information on how to spend time with their baby, and collection of memorabilia. After stillbirth, offers of follow-up care, including referrals for professional support, were appreciated.

Conclusions:

Care received during and after stillbirth may have lasting impacts on parents' future well being. Health care professionals may aid in improving parents' well being after stillbirth by providing care that is cognizant of parents' emotional states. Care strategies arising from the findings of this review are suggested.

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