Couple distress after sudden infant or perinatal death: A 30-month follow up


 Dr FM Boyle, School of Population Health, University of Queensland, Princess Alexandra Hospital, Woolloongabba, Qld 4102, Australia. Fax: +61 7 3240 5112; email:


Objective:  To examine, using a 30-month prospective study, patterns of anxiety, depression and alcohol use in couples following stillbirth, neonatal death or sudden infant death syndrome.

Methodology:  One hundred and thirty-eight bereaved and 156 non-bereaved couples completed standardized interviews at 2, 8, 15 and 30 months post-loss.

Results:  At all interviews, bereaved couples were significantly more likely than non-bereaved couples to have at least one distressed partner. Rarely were both partners distressed in either group. For bereaved couples, ‘mother only’ distress declined from 21% to 10% during the study. ‘Father only’ distress ranged from 7% to 15%, peaking at 30 months. Bereaved mothers who were distressed at 2 months reported significantly lower marital satisfaction at 30 months.

Conclusions:  At the couple level, the experience of a baby's death is multifaceted. Gender differences are common and partners’ needs may change over time. Early recognition of these differences may facilitate longer-term adjustment for both partners.