Stillbirth Not an Issue for Next-Born

FRIDAY July 10, 2009 -- Children born after their mother has a stillbirth aren't at increased risk for psychological problems, according to a British study.

Stillbirth can cause serious mental stress for parents, and some research had suggested that a child born after a stillbirth may be psychologically vulnerable, according to background information in a news release about the study.

The study included 52 first-time mothers whose previous pregnancy had ended in stillbirth and 51 first-time mothers who hadn't experienced stillbirth. The mothers were followed from pregnancy until their children were 6 to 8 years old.

The researchers found no significant differences between the two mother/child groups in terms of child cognitive or health assessments, or in teacher-rated child difficulties. However, mothers who had suffered a stillbirth were more critical of their children and reported more child difficulties, in particular problems with their peers.

"Whether this was because previous loss of a child renders some mothers more sensitive to aspects of their children's behavior that cause them concern, or whether there is real variation in the child's behavior is unclear," study lead author Dr. Penelope Turton of St. George's University of London, said in the news release.

The study was published July 8 in The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.

"We are continuing to follow this group of mothers and children and will follow up again once the children reach adolescence," Turton said.

"This type of study is very important in helping midwives, health visitors and doctors to provide psychological care for both parents after a stillbirth and in the next pregnancy; while the severity of grief usually diminishes over the first one to two years, some mothers continue to experience more intense or prolonged grief and we need to know what long-term effects this can have," she added.

More information

The March of Dimes has more about coping with pregnancy and newborn loss.

Posted: July 2009


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