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Psychological impact of stillbirth on fathers in the subsequent pregnancy and puerperium

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 January 2018

Penelope Turton*
Affiliation:
Division of Mental Health, St George's University of London, London, UK
William Badenhorst
Affiliation:
Division of Mental Health, St George's University of London, London, UK
Patricia Hughes
Affiliation:
Division of Mental Health, St George's University of London, London, UK
Julia Ward
Affiliation:
Division of Mental Health, St George's University of London, London, UK
Samantha Riches
Affiliation:
Division of Mental Health, St George's University of London, London, UK
Sarah White
Affiliation:
Division of Mental Health, St George's University of London, London, UK
*
Dr Penelope Turton, Division of Mental Health, St George's University of London, London SW17 0RE, UK. E-mail: pturton@sgul.ac.uk
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Abstract

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Background

Approximately 1 in 200 UK pregnancies ends in stillbirth. Although serious psychological effects of stillbirth on mothers are well established, much less is known about the impact of such loss on fathers.

Aims

To assess the psychological morbidity of fathers in the pregnancy and post-partum year subsequentto a stillbirth, to test within-couple effects and to identify risk factors.

Method

This was a community-based cohort study of 38 pregnant couples whose previous pregnancy had ended in stillbirth, and 38 pair-matched controls. Psychological assessments took place antenatally and at 6 weeks, 6 months and 1 year postnatally.

Results

Fathers in the index group experienced significant levels of anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder antenatally, but all of their symptoms remitted postnatally (after the birth of a live baby). Fathers' symptom levels were lower than those of mothers at all time points. In contrast to mothers, fathers experienced greater anxiety when a subsequent pregnancy (following stillbirth) was delayed.

Conclusions

The vulnerability of fathers to psychological distress during the pregnancy after a stillbirth needs to be recognised.

Type
Papers
Copyright
Copyright © 2006 The Royal College of Psychiatrists 

Footnotes

Declaration of Interest

None.

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