A perinatal loss refers to the death of an infant during pregnancy or soon thereafter. There are different types of perinatal losses, including miscarriage, stillbirth and neonatal death. A miscarriage is the body’s natural termination of pregnancy before the 20 weeks of gestation. A stillbirth is a fetal death after the 20 weeks of gestation. A neonatal death occurs when an infant die within the first month following a live birth.
The most common form of perinatal loss is miscarriage. It is estimated that one in four of all clinically recognized pregnancies will end in miscarriages (Lerner, 2003). The risk for getting a miscarriage is higher for women who are 35years and above (Garmel, 2002). A study has also shown that 80% of mothers who suffer a perinatal loss become pregnant again within 18 months (Cuisinier, et al., 1996).
However, the impact of the loss may influence the success of subsequent pregnancies at least for a year or more, and presents a sustained period of grief for most women (Cote-Arsenault, 2003). This is because, unlike a normative form of bereavement, perinatal deaths offer limited experiences and memories of the deceased child. For example, parents who suffered miscarriages may not even have the opportunity to engage in mourning rituals like a funeral (Kersting & Wagner, 2012). Indeed, a study by McSpedden, et al. (2017) involving 121 perinatally bereaved mothers up to 5 years of post-bereavement, found that their complicated grief scores (12.4%) were higher than in many other bereaved populations.
Another research has shown that in their search for meaning, perinatally bereaved mothers question themselves on the why’s and how’s of the loss alongside with questions on the possible preventions for such a loss. In the case of miscarriage, gaining meaning is made even more difficult because the loss remains, to some extent, unresolved.
In many Asian cultures, children are a symbol of blessing and family continuity and so losses through perinatal deaths can often be perceived as shameful by the bereaved mother for bringing shame to the family name in not fulfilling her expected role and duty to bear children.
Shame works to silence one’s grief and perinatally bereaved mothers needs our support. GGP Outreach offers such support, focusing strategically on the effects of shame as to the who, what, where and when aspects of disenfranchised grief and problematic meaning making at the significant interfaces of self with self, family, larger community and transcendent reality.