Baylor Researcher Says Stillbirth or Miscarriage Can Take Spiritual Toll on Families


With the rate of stillbirths now topping that of infants who die before their first birthdays, employers—and society in general—must become more empathetic to families grieving the death of a baby through stillbirth or miscarriage and, in many cases, facing a crisis of faith, a Baylor University researcher said.

While infant mortality in the United States has declined 11 percent since 2006, little progress has been made in reducing stillbirth and miscarriage rates, according to a recent report by the National Center for Health Statistics, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Research shows that approximately one in four women will experience a miscarriage, a loss before the 20th week of pregnancy, but it’s not something that we are comfortable talking about,” said Joyce Nuner, an associate professor of child and family studies at Baylor. “It’s a silent sorrow.”

Nuner helped form Cradled, a Waco-based nonprofit serving bereaved families.

“Many people struggle tremendously,” Nuner said. “This leaves many of our group members asking big questions about God, about religion and about spirituality in general. … Our goal is to provide a safe place for all—all denominations, all beliefs systems and all parents suffering the loss of a child. We give them the space to talk about it.”

Perinatal bereavement is minimized in the workplace, she said. A recent article by The New York Times that explored Amazon’s treatment of employees noted workers who suffered from miscarriages said they were evaluated unfairly or edged out rather than given time to recover.

One mother whose child was stillborn—“the most devastating event in my life”—said she left Amazon after being told her performance would be monitored “to make sure my focus stayed on my job.”

Lack of sensitivity

“Such actions and attitudes are not as unusual as we might think,” Nuner said. “In our support groups, I’ve been shocked by the stories of some parents and how they have been treated at work by supervisors and co-workers. Many report a lack of sensitivity, empathy or even recognition that their baby has died.”

Nuner, a mother of three, who also lost a baby girl at 16 weeks, is conducting research to learn how and when attachments are formed with a baby during pregnancy, how maternal mental health is affected by a loss, how the loss impacts future parenting—and how healing can be promoted.

“Through my research and work with Cradled, I am interested in providing parents a place to tell their story,” Nuner said. “This is often a subject that many are hesitant to talk about … even taboo.”

According to the American Psychological Association, 15 percent of women will experience clinically significant depression and/or anxiety after a miscarriage or stillbirth that can last for up to three years.

Even if people wish to sympathize, they may not know how.


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SOURCE: Baptist Standard
Tery Goodrich

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