Coping With Grief After Involuntary Pregnancy Loss: Perspectives of African American Women


Paulina Van, RN, PhD, University of California, San Francisco, Department of Family Health Care Nursing, Box 0606, San Francisco, CA 94143-0606. E-mail:


Objective: To present the coping strategies used by African American women following their miscarriages, ectopic pregnancies, fetal deaths, and stillbirths, which the authors have termed involuntary pregnancy losses or IPLs.

Design: Semistructured audiotaped interviews; grounded theory methods used to collect and analyze the data.

Setting: Urban community-based sites in the Western United States.

Participants: 20 African American adult women who reported a history of involuntary pregnancy loss within 3 years of interview.

Results: In this study, the women's responses to their IPL were grouped into four areas. They coped with personal reactions, reactions of others, memories of the baby, and subsequent pregnancies.

Conclusion: The women in this study used inner resources to develop self-help strategies to cope with reactions following IPL. Nurses are challenged to harness the influence of family, friends, religion, and cultural traditions to assist women in processing the cognitive, emotional, and social traumas associated with IPL. Educating women to recognize grief responses after IPL and to manage these responses effectively may prevent adverse outcomes to their physical and mental health. A culturally sensitive framework of clinical assessment and intervention for African American women experiencing IPL has been developed.