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Grief and Women: Stillbirth in the Social Context of India

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INTRODUCTION: Few in Western society would argue the potentially devastating impact of stillbirth related grief; but in many developing countries where stillbirth remains the highest in the world, perinatal grief is barely recognized as an issue. The purpose of this study was to explore how poor, rural central Indian women perceive and cope with stillbirths.

METHODS: Seventeen key informant interviews and two focus groups (N = 33) with local health care providers, family members, and women who experienced stillbirth were conducted over a 1-month period in 2011 and then systematically coded for emerging themes using grounded theory methods to explore how women experienced stillbirth.

RESULTS: Although usually never talked about and not recognized as an issue, perinatal grief emerged as a significant shared experience by all. The perceptions of stillbirth-related grief emerged in three major themes and bear evidence of gender and power issues and indicate that local social norms negatively factor heavily into their perinatal grief experiences.

DISCUSSION: The findings in this richly textured study add to the limited literature regarding rural, central Indian women's experiences with stillbirth and factors influencing their resulting perinatal grief. In light of the void of recognition of this phenomenon in Indian society, a better understanding of the context in which poor Indian women experience perinatal grief will be a first step toward developing much needed culturally rooted interventions to positively impact the women's abilities to better cope with stillbirth in the context of their realities.
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Keywords: GENDER; INDIA; PERINATAL GRIEF; POWER (PSYCHOLOGY); SOCIAL CONFORMITY

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2012

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