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Experiences of pregnancy following stillbirth : a phenomenological inquiry Phelan, Lauren


Given that approximately 50% of those who experience stillbirth will become pregnant again within 12 months (Hughes et al., 2002), the psychological impact of stillbirth on the experience of subsequent pregnancies and parenting is considerably important and yet, this phenomenon remains poorly understood. This qualitative study intended to address this gap through the use of in-depth unstructured interviews to document the subjective experiences of a subsequent pregnancy for those who previously experienced a stillbirth and did not have children living at home at the time of the loss. The question that guided this inquiry is: What is the meaning and experience of pregnancy for childless persons who have previously experienced a stillbirth? Interviews were conducted with six cisgender women who had experienced a stillbirth within the past one to five years and had subsequently given birth to a child or children that they were currently parenting. van Manen’s (1990) hermeneutical phenomenological method was used in the thematic analysis of the interview transcriptions, and six common themes emerged from the participants’ stories, including: Sense of Isolation, Acute Sense of Anxiety and Fear, Sense of Responsibility and Guilt, Sense of Loss of Control and Helplessness, Ongoing Sense of Connection to the Child that was Lost, and Sense of Transformation Through Loss. These findings are compared with the current literature, including situating the findings within the theoretical lens of nonfinite loss. The implications of the findings for counselling practice are also discussed along with recommendations for future research.

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