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Fathers experienced stillbirth as a waste of life and needed to protect their partners and express grief in their own way

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 QUESTION: How do fathers experience the intrauterine death of their child?

Design

Phenomenology.

Setting

Sweden.

Participants

11 fathers (age range 31–46 y) whose partners had stillborn children at 32–42 weeks of pregnancy in 1997 and 1998. 6 fathers already had children. 4 fathers had become fathers again after the stillbirth, and 4 of the men′s partners were pregnant at the time of the study.

Methods

Fathers were interviewed 5–27 months after the stillbirth in the venue of their choice (at home or the hospital). Interviews of 25 minutes to 2 hours in length were taped and transcribed. The transcripts were analysed to identify meaningful central units.

Main findings

(1) Experiencing that the baby was no longer alive: 8 fathers had a premonition that something was wrong before being told about the stillbirth, but they still had hope. Fathers described feelings of impending catastrophe (including shock, a lack of feeling, and denial). They also described great disappointment when their preparations and expectations for the baby were thwarted. Most fathers found consolation in their adversity through confirmation of their reactions by support and information. They expressed an urgent need …

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