Background. The present study aimed to investigate possible differences, within the couple, in their encounter with their stillborn child and the assistance of caregivers during the event and to evaluate the parents’ psychological well-being three months after the stillbirth.
Methods. Twenty-two couples, who experienced a stillbirth, participated in the study. A study-specific questionnaire and a previously evaluated well-being questionnaire were used to assess the parents’ psychological condition. Chi-square analysis, Wilcoxon's signed rank test, Student's paired t-test, and Spearman's rank correlation coefficient were used to detect differences within the couples.
Results. The parents had feelings of fear when they conceptualized the stillborn child, but with support from staff all but one couple held their child. The fathers had the same strong feelings of warmth, pride, tenderness, and grief as the mothers when they held the child. Most parents reported that the staff had treated them with understanding during the delivery. Three months after the event the mothers scored significantly higher on Negative Well-being, lower on Positive Well-being, and lower on General Well-being than the fathers. A majority of the mothers, but no fathers, were on sick leave three months after the event.
Conclusions. Our study suggests that mothers and fathers need to be emotionally supported in the encounter with their stillborn child. The mothers’ scoring of lower well-being may be due to a stronger antenatal attachment to the child. This should, however, be a subject of further studies.