Variation in stillbirth rates across high-income countries and large equity gaps within high-income countries persist. If all high-income countries achieved stillbirth rates equal to the best performing countries, 19 439 late gestation (28 weeks or more) stillbirths could have been avoided in 2015. The proportion of unexplained stillbirths is high and can be addressed through improvements in data collection, investigation, and classification, and with a better understanding of causal pathways. Substandard care contributes to 20-30% of all stillbirths and the contribution is even higher for late gestation intrapartum stillbirths. National perinatal mortality audit programmes need to be implemented in all high-income countries. The need to reduce stigma and fatalism related to stillbirth and to improve bereavement care are also clear, persisting priorities for action. In high-income countries, a woman living under adverse socioeconomic circumstances has twice the risk of having a stillborn child when compared to her more advantaged counterparts. Programmes at community and country level need to improve health in disadvantaged families to address these inequities.
Despite the frequency of stillbirths, the subsequent implications are overlooked and underappreciated. We present findings from comprehensive, systematic literature reviews, and new analyses of published and unpublished data, to establish the effect of stillbirth on parents, families, health-care providers, and societies worldwide. Data for direct costs of this event are sparse but suggest that a stillbirth needs more resources than a livebirth, both in the perinatal period and in additional surveillance during subsequent pregnancies. Indirect and intangible costs of stillbirth are extensive and are usually met by families alone. This issue is particularly onerous for those with few resources. Negative effects, particularly on parental mental health, might be moderated by empathic attitudes of care providers and tailored interventions. The value of the baby, as well as the associated costs for parents, families, care providers, communities, and society, should be considered to prevent stillbirths and reduce associated morbidity.
BackgroundDespite improvements in maternity healthcare services over the last few decades, more than 2.7 million babies worldwide are stillborn each year. The global health agenda is silent about stillbirth, perhaps, in part, because its wider impact has not been systematically analysed or understood before now across the world. Our study aimed to systematically review, evaluate and summarise the current evidence regarding the psychosocial impact of stillbirth to parents and their families, with the aim of improving guidance in bereavement care worldwide.MethodsSystematic review and meta-summary (quantitative aggregation of qualitative findings) of quantitative, qualitative, and mixed-methods studies. All languages and countries were included.ResultsTwo thousand, six hundred and nineteen abstracts were identified; 144 studies were included. Frequency effect sizes (FES %) were calculated for each theme, as a measure of their prevalence in the literature.Themes ranged from negative psychological symptoms post bereavement (77 · 1) and in subsequent pregnancies (27 · 1), to disenfranchised grief (31 · 2), and incongruent grief (28 · 5), There was also impact on siblings (23 · 6) and on the wider family (2 · 8).They included mixed-feelings about decisions made when the baby died (12 · 5), avoidance of memories (13 · 2), anxiety over other children (7 · 6), chronic pain and fatigue (6 · 9), and a different approach to the use of healthcare services (6 · 9).Some themes were particularly prominent in studies of fathers; grief suppression (avoidance)(18 · 1), employment difficulties, financial debt (5 · 6), and increased substance use (4 · 2). Others found in studies specific to mothers included altered body image (3 · 5) and impact on quality of life (2 · 1). Counter-intuitively, Some themes had mixed connotations. These included parental pride in the baby (5 · 6), motivation for engagement in healthcare improvement (4 · 2) and changed approaches to life and death, self-esteem, and own identity (25 · 7).In studies from low/middle income countries, stigmatisation (13 · 2) and pressure to prioritise or delay conception (9) were especially prevalent.ConclusionExperiencing the birth of a stillborn child is a life-changing event. The focus of the consequences may vary with parent gender and country. Stillbirth can have devastating psychological, physical and social costs, with ongoing effects on interpersonal relationships and subsequently born children. However, parents who experience the tragedy of stillbirth can develop resilience and new life-skills and capacities. Future research should focus on developing interventions that may reduce the psychosocial cost of stillbirth.Electronic supplementary materialThe online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12884-016-0800-8) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Citation Sharp AN, Heazell AEP, Crocker IP, Mor G. Placental apoptosis in health and disease. Am J Reprod Immunol 2010; 64: 159–169 Apoptosis, programmed cell death, is an essential feature of normal placental development but is exaggerated in association with placental disease. Placental development relies upon effective implantation and invasion of the maternal decidua by the placental trophoblast. In normal pregnancy, trophoblast apoptosis increases with placental growth and advancing gestation. However, apoptosis is notably exaggerated in the pregnancy complications, hydatidiform mole, pre‐eclampsia, and intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR). Placental apoptosis may be initiated by a variety of stimuli, including hypoxia and oxidative stress. In common with other cell‐types, trophoblast apoptosis follows the extrinsic or intrinsic pathways culminating in the activation of caspases. In contrast, the formation of apoptotic bodies is less clearly identified, but postulated by some to involve the clustering of apoptotic nuclei and liberation of this material into the maternal circulation. In addition to promoting a favorable maternal immune response, the release of this placental‐derived material is thought to provoke the endothelial dysfunction of pre‐eclampsia. Widespread apoptosis of the syncytiotrophoblast may also impair trophoblast function leading to the reduction in nutrient transport seen in IUGR. A clearer understanding of placental apoptosis and its regulation may provide new insights into placental pathologies, potentially suggesting therapeutic targets.
Please cite this paper as: Heazell A, McLaughlin M, Schmidt E, Cox P, Flenady V, Khong T, Downe S. A difficult conversation? The views and experiences of parents and professionals on the consent process for perinatal postmortem after stillbirth. BJOG 2012;119:987–997. Objective To describe the experiences, knowledge and views of both parents and professionals regarding the consent process for perinatal postmortem. Design Internet‐based survey. Setting Obstetricians, midwives and perinatal pathologists currently working in the UK. Parents who have experienced a stillbirth in the UK in the previous 10 years. Sample Obstetricians, midwives and perinatal pathologists registered with their professional bodies. Parents who accessed the Sands website or online forum. Methods Online self‐completion questionnaire with both fixed‐choice and open‐ended questions. Results Responses were analysed from 2256 midwives, 354 obstetricians, 21 perinatal pathologists and 460 parents. The most common reason for parents to request postmortem examination was to find a cause for their baby’s death; the prevention of stillbirths in others also ranked highly. Perinatal pathologists possessed greatest knowledge of the procedure and efficacy of postmortem, but were unlikely to meet bereaved parents. The majority of professionals and parents ranked emotional distress and a lengthy wait for results as barriers to consent. The majority of staff ranked workload, negative publicity, religion and cultural issues as important barriers, whereas most parents did not. Almost twice as many parents who declined postmortem examination later regretted their decision compared with those who accepted the offer (34.4 versus 17.4%). Conclusion Emotional, practical and psychosocial issues can act as real or perceived barriers for staff and bereaved parents. Education is required for midwives and obstetricians, to increase their knowledge to ensure accurate counselling, with due regard for the highly individual responses of bereaved parents. The contribution of perinatal pathologists to staff education and parental decision‐making would be invaluable.
SummaryBackground2·6 million pregnancies were estimated to have ended in stillbirth in 2015. The aim of the AFFIRM study was to test the hypothesis that introduction of a reduced fetal movement (RFM), care package for pregnant women and clinicians that increased women's awareness of the need for prompt reporting of RFM and that standardised management, including timely delivery, would alter the incidence of stillbirth.MethodsThis stepped wedge, cluster-randomised trial was done in the UK and Ireland. Participating maternity hospitals were grouped and randomised, using a computer-generated allocation scheme, to one of nine intervention implementation dates (at 3 month intervals). This date was concealed from clusters and the trial team until 3 months before the implementation date. Each participating hospital had three observation periods: a control period from Jan 1, 2014, until randomised date of intervention initiation; a washout period from the implementation date and for 2 months; and the intervention period from the end of the washout period until Dec 31, 2016. Treatment allocation was not concealed from participating women and caregivers. Data were derived from observational maternity data. The primary outcome was incidence of stillbirth. The primary analysis was done according to the intention-to-treat principle, with births analysed according to whether they took place during the control or intervention periods, irrespective of whether the intervention had been implemented as planned. This study is registered with www.ClinicalTrials.gov, number NCT01777022.Findings37 hospitals were enrolled in the study. Four hospitals declined participation, and 33 hospitals were randomly assigned to an intervention implementation date. Between Jan 1, 2014, and Dec, 31, 2016, data were collected from 409 175 pregnancies (157 692 deliveries during the control period, 23 623 deliveries in the washout period, and 227 860 deliveries in the intervention period). The incidence of stillbirth was 4·40 per 1000 births during the control period and 4·06 per 1000 births in the intervention period (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] 0·90, 95% CI 0·75–1·07; p=0·23).InterpretationThe RFM care package did not reduce the risk of stillbirths. The benefits of a policy that promotes awareness of RFM remains unproven.FundingChief Scientist Office, Scottish Government (CZH/4/882), Tommy's Centre for Maternal and Fetal Health, Sands.
ObjectiveTo obtain the views of bereaved parents about their interactions with healthcare staff when their baby died just before or during labour.DesignQualitative in-depth interview study, following an earlier national survey. All interviews took place during 2011, either face-to-face or on the telephone. Data analysis was informed by the constant comparative technique from grounded theory.SettingEvery National Health Service (NHS) region in the UK was represented.ParticipantsBereaved parents who had completed an e-questionnaire, via the website of Sands (Stillbirth and Neonatal Death Society). Of the 304 survey respondents who gave provisional consent, 29 families were approached to take part, based on maximum variation sampling and data saturation.Results22 families (n=25) participated. Births took place between 2002 and 2010. Specific practices were identified that were particularly helpful to the parents. Respondents talked about their interactions with hospital staff as having profound effects on their capacity to cope, both during labour and in the longer term. The data generated three key themes: ‘enduring and multiple loss’: ‘making irretrievable moments precious’; and the ‘best care possible to the worst imaginable’. The overall synthesis of findings is encapsulated in the meta-theme ‘One chance to get it right.’ This pertains to the parents and family themselves, clinical and support staff who care for them directly, and the NHS organisations that indirectly provide the resources and governance procedures that may (or may not) foster a caring ethos.ConclusionsPositive memories and outcomes following stillbirth depend as much on genuinely caring staff attitudes and behaviours as on high-quality clinical procedures. All staff who encounter parents in this situation need to see each meeting as their one chance to get it right.
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