Skip to main content

Men's grief following pregnancy and neonatal loss

Men's grief following pregnancy and neonatal loss | Knitted yellow baby shoes

Every year, millions of families worldwide experience the loss of their baby before or shortly after birth. In Australia, one in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage, six babies per day are stillborn and up to 1000 babies lose their fight for life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) each year.

Although care and support services for grieving parents and families have improved in the last few decades, fathers frequently report feeling as though they are the “forgotten mourners” following the loss of a baby, and carry the responsibility to support their female partner and family. In Australia, there is limited research into men’s experiences of grief following a loss and their subsequent supports needs. Our research aims to improve the understanding of men’s grief and bereavement following pregnancy loss and neonatal loss by developing a theory of men’s grief. The findings may be used to inform bereavement care guidelines and support services for fathers.

About our current studies

Systematic Review (2019)

To develop a comprehensive understanding of men’s grief, we have reviewed the literature on men’s experiences of grief following pregnancy/neonatal loss published in the last 20 years, looking at two research questions: 1) what are men’s experiences of grief following pregnancy loss or neonatal loss, and 2) what are the predictors of men’s grief following loss?
The findings were presented at the Perinatal Society of Australia and New Zealand (PSANZ) 2019 Congress on the Gold Coast, and the 2019 International Stillbirth Alliance Conference in Madrid, Spain.

Read the full paper and blog post

National Survey and Interviews

To refine an emerging model of men’s grief, this survey seeks to explore the grief experiences of Australian men who have experienced a pregnancy loss or neonatal loss within the last 20 years. The survey has now closed and data analysis is underway.

We are currently completing follow-up interviews with survey participants who expressed interest.

If you would like further information on this research, or to receive a copy of the results as they become available please email Kate Obst (kate.obst@adelaide.edu.au). 

About our completed studies

Interviews with Men (2017)

An Australian-first interview study on men’s experiences of support following pregnancy loss (including miscarriage and stillbirth). Our results suggested that men have highly individualised experiences of grief and varied support needs. Many of the participants experienced a lack of social recognition from family, friends and community in relation to their grief, which complicated their experience and recovery. Counselling and support groups were helpful to some men, however, others reported preferring more informal options such as catching up with another male who understood their experience or participating in fundraising events. Importantly, this research identified a need for further research on men’s grief following pregnancy loss to inform the development of future support services.

Read the full paper or media article, or listen to Kate Obst talk about the research in an interview by Dr Hunter Mulcare for "Two Shrinks Pod".

Interviews with Service Providers (2017)

As part of the study on men’s experiences of pregnancy loss, we also interviewed service providers (including nurses, midwives, grief counsellors and social workers) on their experiences of supporting men following pregnancy loss. Although men’s grief is highly individualised, participants in this study highlighted a need to recognise and address the additional expectations and responsibilities that may compound men’s experience. To better support men, participants also described the need for creative strategies and use of inclusive language that promotes engagement of men throughout the pregnancy and loss experience. 

Read the full paper.

Australian Stillbirth Senate Inquiry (2018)

In 2018, the Senate established an inquiry into stillbirth in Australia and highlighted the need for future investment in stillbirth research and education. We contributed our research on men to advocate for the needs of bereaved fathers following stillbirth. The final report and recommendations were tabled in December 2018. Our findings were included in chapter six on improving the quality of bereavement care and recommendation nine acknowledged the need for bereavement support to address the specific needs of bereaved fathers along with siblings, grandparents and other family members.

Read the report.

Further Support and information

If you require support or wish to speak to someone about your loss, please contact the following pregnancy/neonatal loss support services:​​​

      SANDS (Stillborn And Neonatal Death Support) Support Lines

      Miscarriage, stillbirth and newborn death support.
      National support line available 24/7: 1300 072 637
      Dedicated men’s support line: available within 24 hours by appointment:

      https://www.sands.org.au/male-parent-supporters
      Online live chat: https://www.sands.org.au/online-live-support

      Bears of Hope Grief Support

      Support and care for families who experience the loss of their baby.
      National support line: 1300 11 HOPE
      Website: http://www.bearsofhope.org.au/
       

      Red Nose Grief and Loss Support

      Supporting families after the death of a child.
      National support line available 24/7: 1300 308 307
      Website for grief and loss: https://rednosegriefandloss.com.au/

      SIDS and Kids SA

      Free professional counselling and bereavement support to South Australian families who have experienced a loss during pregnancy, stillbirth and neonatal loss, as well as any sudden death up to 7 years of age.
      Crisis Line available 24/7: 1300 799 656

      Miracle Babies

      Supporting premature and sick newborns, their families and the hospitals that care for them.
      National support line available 24/7: 1300 622 243
      Website:
      www.miraclebabies.org.au

      Pillars of Strength

      An Australian-first charity providing time out and in-hospital support programs for bereaved dads and for dads while their child is ill in hospital.
      Website:
      www.pillarsofstrength.com.au
      Email: support@pillarsofstrength.com.au

      The Compassionate Friends Australia

      Supporting grandparents, parents and siblings after a child dies.
      National line available 24/7: 1300 064 068
      For state-based support options, visit: www.thecompassionatefriends.org.au/contact

      For information on stillbirth awareness and research:​​​​​

      Still Aware

      Australia’s first stillbirth awareness charity.
      Website: 
      www.stillaware.org/

      The Stillbirth Foundation Australia

      Research and education to prevent stillbirth.
      Support and resources:
      www.stillbirthfoundation.org.au/support/

      We thank the following organisations for their support

      Stillbirth CRESAHMRISids and Kids SASandsStill AwareMiracle babiesBears of hopePillars of StrengthFreemasons Foundation logo

      Ms Obst is receiving funding for this research from an Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship and a Westpac Scholars Trust 2018 Future Leaders Scholarship.

      Westpac Scholars

       

      top