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Providing meaningful care for families experiencing stillbirth: a meta-synthesis of qualitative evidence



The objective of this study was to explore the meaningfulness of non-pharmacological care experienced by families throughout the experience of stillbirth from diagnosis onwards.

Study Design:

A comprehensive systematic review was conducted. Multiple sources were searched for relevant studies including gray literature. Studies were included if they reported the experiences of families with the care they received throughout the experience of stillbirth, from diagnosis onwards. Studies were assessed for methodological quality prior to inclusion. Qualitative findings were extracted from included studies and pooled using a meta-aggregative approach. This paper reports the results of one meta-synthesis from the systematic review.


Ten qualitative studies of moderate to high quality informed this meta-synthesis. The meta-aggregative synthesis included 69 findings that informed the development of 10 categories and one final, synthesized finding. Emerging themes that underpinned the meaningfulness of care provided to parents experiencing stillbirth included: information provision, the need for emotional support and appropriate maternity ward environments and systems.


The results of this meta-synthesis revealed the elements of care that were experienced as meaningful from the perspective of parents who had experienced stillbirth. Exploration of these elements has provided important detail to underpin a growing understanding of how parents experience care and what may help or hinder parents’ experience of distress, anxiety and grief throughout the experience of stillbirth.

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We acknowledge the financial support of the Stillbirth Foundation Australia for the conduct of this research. We also acknowledge the input of the members of the expert reference group: Mrs Glenise Coulthard, Ms Philippa Middleton, Professor Ben Mol, Professor Alan Pearson, Dr Anne Sved Williams, Professor Susan Walker, Dr Jane Warland and Mrs Emma Wotherspoon.

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Correspondence to M D J Peters.

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Supplementary Information accompanies the paper on the Journal of Perinatology website

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Peters, M., Lisy, K., Riitano, D. et al. Providing meaningful care for families experiencing stillbirth: a meta-synthesis of qualitative evidence. J Perinatol 36, 3–9 (2016).

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