When it comes to the death of your baby, who do you blame? Do you blame yourself? And how is that affecting your pregnancy this time?

Earlier this year, the Lancet launched its second huge series on stillbirth. I’m going to take just one question from one article in that series and explore it in a little more detail here, and think about how it can change how you see your pregnancy now.

Over 6600 people were placed in three groups: parents of a stillborn baby, care providers to parents (obstetricians, midwives, obstetrical nurses) and the general public. They were asked a series of questions about what they thought about society’s perceptions of stillbirth by whether they agreed or disagreed with a statement like this one:

People in my community think: The death of a baby to stillbirth is usually the mother’s fault.

And here’s where things get interesting. This question, more than any other, had huge differences between the three groups. Only 0.5% of health care providers believed the community thought that stillbirth was the mothers fault. That’s less than half a percent. A total of 10 people out of over 2000!

Among the general public, slightly more people believed stillbirth was a mother’s fault. In this instance, over 3% believed that society thinks stillbirth is a mother’s fault. Remember, this isn’t necessarily what they believed themselves but instead the messages they think mothers get about stillbirth.

Not your fault. A healthy pregnancy is in your hands? Is it really?

A healthy pregnancy is in your hands? Is it really?

However, among bereaved parents’ things are more concerning. 12% believed that society thinks stillbirth is a mother’s fault. In some cases, they may even be internalizing those feelings. It doesn’t help when health care providers give mixed messages. The slogan for the Public Health Agency of Canada’s Healthy Pregnancy page is “A healthy pregnancy is in your hands.” The implications are there all the time. The pressure to eat right, to not be too stressed, to do all the right things, can be unbearable. The subtext behind all of this is, if you do the right things you will have a healthy baby. If you do the wrong things, you’ll get what you deserved. But none of us deserve this.

Being pregnant after loss is stressful enough, so take care of yourself. Your baby’s health is at best only partly under your control. You did not cause your baby to die. Know what the doctors and nurses and midwives already know: stillbirth is not your fault. Keep repeating that out loud until you believe it.

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