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Effects of Contact with Stillborn Babies on Maternal Anxiety and Depression

Authors

  • Joanne Cacciatore PhD, MSW, FT,

    Corresponding author
    1. 1Joanne Cacciatore is an Assistant Professor in the College of Human Services at Arizona State University, Phoenix, Arizona, USA; 2Ingela Rådestad is an Associate Professor in the Department of Caring Sciences and Public Health at Mälardalens University, Eskilstuna, Sweden; and 3J. Frederik Frøen is a Director and an Associate Professor in the Department of Genes and Environment, Division of Epidemiology at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Oslo, Norway.
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  • 1 Ingela Rådestad PhD,

    1. 1Joanne Cacciatore is an Assistant Professor in the College of Human Services at Arizona State University, Phoenix, Arizona, USA; 2Ingela Rådestad is an Associate Professor in the Department of Caring Sciences and Public Health at Mälardalens University, Eskilstuna, Sweden; and 3J. Frederik Frøen is a Director and an Associate Professor in the Department of Genes and Environment, Division of Epidemiology at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Oslo, Norway.
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  • and 2 J. Frederik Frøen MD, PhD 3

    1. 1Joanne Cacciatore is an Assistant Professor in the College of Human Services at Arizona State University, Phoenix, Arizona, USA; 2Ingela Rådestad is an Associate Professor in the Department of Caring Sciences and Public Health at Mälardalens University, Eskilstuna, Sweden; and 3J. Frederik Frøen is a Director and an Associate Professor in the Department of Genes and Environment, Division of Epidemiology at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Oslo, Norway.
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  • The study received financial support from the Norwegian Society for Unexpected Infant Death, Oslo, Norway.

Joanne Cacciatore, College of Human Services, Arizona State University, 4701 West Thunderbird Road, Glendale, Arizona 85308, USA.

Abstract

Abstract: Background: Some guidelines encourage mothers to see and hold their babies after stillbirth, which might be traumatizing. The study objective was to investigate the effects of women seeing and holding their stillborn baby on the risk of anxiety and depression in a subsequent pregnancy and in the long term. Methods: Thirty-seven organizations recruited women who had experienced stillbirth (N = 2,292 of whom 286 reported being pregnant). Anxiety and depressive symptoms were assessed by using the 25-item Hopkins Symptom Check List. Results: Among nonpregnant women, seeing and holding their stillborn baby were associated with lower anxiety symptoms (OR 0.68, 95% CI 0.49–0.95) and a tendency toward fewer symptoms of depression (OR 0.72, 95% CI 0.51–1.02), compared with pregnant women. Participants who were pregnant also had less depressive symptomatology (OR 0.57, 95% CI 0.43–0.75), but more symptoms of anxiety if they had seen and held their baby (OR 3.79, 95% CI 1.42–10.1). Conclusions: Seeing and holding the baby are associated with fewer anxiety and depressive symptoms among mothers of stillborn babies than not doing so, although this beneficial effect may be temporarily reversed during a subsequent pregnancy. (BIRTH 35:4 December 2008)

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