A new study conducted by Oxford University has found that preparation before having contact with a stillborn baby, professional support during the contact, and professional follow-up are crucial to prevent the development of maternal mental health problems, and that giving parents an informed choice is also vital.  The study also indicated that it may be appropriate for staff to recommend to parents that they consider having contact with their stillborn baby.

The study examined mums’ experiences of spending time with their stillborn baby and how they felt later about their decisions around seeing and holding their baby. Sands advised on aspects of this study, which was carried out as part of the larger SAMMI (Stillbirth and Mental Health in Women) study. 

Researchers recorded interviews with 21 mums who had seen their stillborn baby. Most had held their baby too. The study found that although it was extremely difficult at the time, spending time with their baby was a helpful experience and most women valued the time they had. Many also spoke about being able to share their experience with their partner and also with parents and members of their extended family. To involve those around them after the stillbirth was an important part of the process for some mothers.

An overview of the findings of the study can be found here . A second overview has been written specifically for the benefit of midwives and can be downloaded here. The study has also been published and can be read here www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2393/14/203.

The SAMMI team thanks all those who took part in the study.