These findings demonstrate the importance of recognizing the incidence of other life stressors that parents may be experiencing that could impact on pregnancy outcome or on their response after a loss. Nurses and other health care professionals should assess the presence of stressors in a parent’s life, recognize the ways that parents cope, assist them to mobilize coping strategies, and make appropriate referrals as needed.
Third callout Nurses and other health care professionals should assess the presence of stressors in a parent’s life, recognize the ways that parents cope, assist them to mobilize coping strategies, and make appropriate referrals as needed.
Specifically, this study illustrates the need for nurses to assess vulnerable pregnant women and their partners for increased instances of life stressors such as the death of a close family member or undesirable employment conditions. The presence of multiple life stressors may have contributed to pregnant women’s reported difficulty in identifying or responding to symptoms of pregnancy complications in this study. Nurses may need to implement additional measures of empathy, communication, education, and, when appropriate, social support referrals to optimize the health of these women.
This study also explicates the importance of nursing actions and interventions when parents experience a perinatal loss. Foremost, nurses can increase parents’ coping abilities during times of perinatal loss by providing a supportive environment for parents. Examples of specific nursing actions include displaying empathy and providing parents with pictures and mementoes of their deceased baby. These findings coincide with other research examining perinatal loss (Kavanaugh, 1997b
; Lundqvist, Nilstun, & Dykes, 2002
). This study also accentuates the need for nurses and other health care professionals to articulate clear and explicit information regarding hospital-based policies, such as autopsy and burial practices, to both mothers and fathers. Significant to this study was the finding that fathers were reluctant to hold their infant without additional encouragement from nursing personnel, thereby indicating the special attention that fathers may need.
It is also noteworthy that in this research no parents attended parent support groups. This finding suggests that traditional mechanisms for providing follow-up care for parents after a perinatal loss, such as making a referral to a hospital-based parent support group, may not be appropriate for these parents. The results of the research reported here do support the need to find out parents’ understanding of events and desire for involvement in treatment plans.
This study provides a beginning understanding of the experience of low-income, African American parents and is not designed to be generalized to a larger population. Further research needs to be conducted with a larger sample of low-income African American parents. Also, the methodological approach for this study does not allow for inferences to be drawn regarding the influence of race and/or economic status on the study findings. A larger correlational study could be designed to study those variables. Further research is also needed to compare parent and health care professional perceptions of treatment decisions, including parent desire for involvement in treatment decisions.