How do we include fathers when a baby dies?

How do we include fathers when a baby dies?

Malene Grene Sich, Anja Vamberg, Olinda Schriver

Unit for Perinatal Loss, Aarhus University Hospital, Denmark

When a baby dies both mothers AND fathers are bereaved of their child, but the literature primarily focusses on the mothers. Most studies that include men assess the differences between men and women and little is known about how men actually experience the loss of their baby, how they cope and what kind of support they need and what they are actually offered following a loss.

Nevertheless, we do know something about how men in general react when confronted with a crisis and also which styles of communication they prefer. When women tend to use emotional strategies and verbalise their feelings, men tend to use problem-solving strategies and need factual information. Men in general have a strong need for autonomy and control and being active and able to act is a necessity for most men. In Danish hospitals, when it comes to caregiving, the culture is to a high degree shaped by women and female values and we have to ask ourselves the question: do we offer bereaved fathers the appropriate support after a perinatal loss?
At Unit for Perinatal Loss, Aarhus University Hospital, nearly all tasks (induction of labour, assistance during birth, postpartum care, bereavement support groups and antenatal care in a following pregnancy) are performed by specialised midwives – who are all women.

Fathers are to a high degree neglected in the care provided at many hospitals. In this presentation we will demonstrate how we, at the unit for perinatal loss at Aarhus university Hospital, have deliberately reformed our care to ensure a better inclusion of fathers.

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