Stillbirth an investigation of the long term effects on bereaved parents and the availiblity of suitable counselling

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Thompson, Helena
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BA (Hons) Counselling and Psychotherapy
Dublin Business School
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The objectives of this research were to investigate if there are long term effects on parents bereaved by stillbirth and whether suitable counselling is available. An in depth review of literature on the subject highlighted issues such as difficulties of grief and adaptation. Parents were believed to be prone to pathological grief relating to difficulty in accepting the reality of the loss because of the lack of memories of the child, incomplete separation, and developmental issues. Ambivalence might relate to the child or medical staff or other women. Issues of self-esteem, lack of support, and the socially negated status of the loss, also caused difficulty. Post-traumatic stress disorder is common with stillbirth. As a result of their loss parents were prone to difficulties ofparenting subsequent children. The 'vulnerable child' who is overprotected and whose parents are hyper-vigilant is also common. Coping strategies of guilt and self-blame were found as a defence against helplessness. Most literature referred to the first 2 years after loss. This study used a self-report questionnaire, the Perinatal Grief Scale (Potvin, Lasker & Toedter, 1989), as the basis for research. Profile questions and one open question about counselling were also asked. Participants whose loss occurred more than 2 years ago were sought. It was found that their levels of grief were high, even for those whose loss was more than 30 years ago. The gestational age of the child was not as significant. There was some evidence of heightened appreciation and ambivalence around medical care. There was also a sense of emptiness related to parents' experience. Parents had not been offered counselling and most felt it could be useful.