Study rationale and design
More than two million babies are stillborn every year. Most parents will conceive again soon after having a stillborn baby. These parents are more likely to have another stillborn baby in the next pregnancy than parents who have not had a stillborn baby before. The next pregnancy after stillbirth is often an extremely anxious time for parents, as they worry about whether their baby will survive. In this study we asked 2716 parents from 40 countries about the care they received during their first pregnancy after stillbirth. Parents were recruited mainly through the International Stillbirth Alliance and completed on online survey that was available in six languages.
Parents often had extra antenatal visits and extra ultrasound scans in the next pregnancy, but they rarely had extra emotional support. Also, many parents felt their care providers did not always listen to them and spend enough time with them, involve them in decisions, and take their concerns seriously. Parents were more likely to receive various forms of extra care in the next pregnancy if their baby had died later in pregnancy compared to earlier in pregnancy.
In this study we only have information from parents who were able and willing to complete an online survey. Most of the parents were involved in charity and support groups and most parents lived in developed countries. We do not know how well the findings relate to other parents. Finally, our study does not include parents who may have tried for another pregnancy but were not able to conceive.
This study can help to improve care through the development of best practice guidelines for pregnancies following stillbirth. The results suggest that parents need better emotional support in these pregnancies, and more opportunities to participate actively in decisions about care. Extra support should be available no matter how far along in pregnancy the previous stillborn baby died.