Is partners’ mental health and well-being affected by holding the baby after stillbirth? Mothers’ accounts from a national survey

Julie M. Hennegan, Jane Henderson, Maggie Redshaw

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Objective: This study aimed to assess the effects on partners’ health and well-being of holding a stillborn baby. Background: Findings from quantitative and qualitative studies have produced inconsistent results concerning the effects of holding a stillborn baby on parents. Methods: Secondary analyses were conducted on postal questionnaire data relating to 455 partners of women who had a stillbirth. Women answered questions about their partners’ behaviour, perceptions of care, mental health and well-being at three and nine months after the stillbirth. Demographic, clinical and care characteristics were compared between partners who, according to the mothers, did and did not hold their baby. Sub-group analyses assessed hypothesised moderating effects. Results: Mothers reported that most partners saw (92%) and held (82%) their stillborn baby. However, partners born outside the UK were less likely to have held their baby. Higher gestational age, shorter time interval between antepartum death and delivery, and mother’s holding the baby all predicted a higher rate of partner’s holding. There was a consistent negative effect of holding the baby across mental health and well-being outcomes, although after adjustment only higher odds of depression (OR 2.72, 95% CI 1.35–5.50) and post-traumatic stress type symptoms (OR 1.95, 95% CI 1.01–3.78) at 3 months were significantly associated with having held the baby following stillbirth. Conclusions: This study is the first to assess the impact of holding the baby on partners’ mental health and well-being. The prevalence of depression and anxiety were high, and the negative effects of holding the baby were significant 3 months later.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)120-131
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Reproductive and Infant Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 15 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Stillbirth
  • bereavement
  • fathers
  • infant contact
  • partners
  • touch

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Psychology(all)
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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