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Transforming loss: Taiwanese women's adaptation to stillbirth


Min-Tao Hsu, Graduate Institute of Nursing, Kaohsiung Medical University, Kaohsiung 80708, Taiwan. E-mail:


Aim.  To explore the experiences of Taiwanese mothers of stillborn babies, their coping strategies, and the ways in which their subsequent human interactions are shaped by Taiwanese culture.

Background.  Giving birth to a male family heir is still considered an important responsibility for Taiwanese women. The ideology of continuity is still at the centre of Chinese family life in which women are expected to deliver babies that will continue their husbands' family lines. Research on the connection between this responsibility and women's reaction to stillbirth in a cultural context is limited. Understanding Taiwanese women's experiences with stillbirth will add to the body of nursing knowledge, especially in terms of giving culturally competent nursing care.

Methods.  Interpretive ethnographic procedures were used to locate coping strategies. Twenty mothers who had stillbirth experiences were interviewed periodically during the 2 years following their losses. Following Agar's example, data were analysed to identify themes representing coping strategies.

Findings.  The four major themes identified were (a) transforming the meaning of death, (b) doing something for the deceased, (c) anticipating another pregnancy, and (d) rebuilding a social fabric.

Conclusion.  The processes that the mothers of stillborn babies experience represent transformations that involve engagement with cultural expectations for woman. The authors suggest that these cultural impacts should be incorporated into nursing assessment and treatment practices.