Our Research

The Institute of Reproductive Grief Care® is at the forefront of creating impartial and impactful research to understand the way individuals process reproductive losses, and to establish global standards for offering compassionate care. Contact us for more information on the Institute’s research.

Validation of a Brief Measure for Complicated Grief Specific to Reproductive Loss Cara Buskmiller • Kathryn R. Grauerholz • Jennifer Bute • Maria Brann • Michaelene Fredenburg • Jerrie S. Refuerzo

Complicated grief reactions follow some pregnancy outcomes, like miscarriage, stillbirth, neonatal death, infant death, selective reduction, or termination of pregnancy. Stigma can delay treatment and worsen outcomes. Screening tools such as the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale detect complicated grief poorly, and specific tools for prolonged or complicated grief after a reproductive loss are cumbersome. In this study, a five-item questionnaire to detect complicated grief after reproductive loss of any type was designed and preliminary validated.

The Trauma of Perinatal Loss: A Scoping Review. S. Berry, the lead researcher on this study, is a member of the Institute’s Healthcare Task Force.

Perinatal loss, the loss of a fetus or neonate between conception and 28 days after birth, is a worldwide phenomenon impacting millions of individuals annually. Whether due to miscarriage, stillbirth, life-limiting fetal diagnoses, or neonatal death, up to 60% of bereaved parents exhibit symptoms of depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder. Despite the high prevalence of posttraumatic stress symptoms, perinatal loss is not framed using a trauma lens. The purpose of this scoping review is to gain insight into the trauma within the perinatal loss experience.

Held and Heartfelt: Compounded Grief in Healthcare Professionals’ Experiences of Pregnancy LossNarrative Inquiry in Bioethics 12(3), 221-226. 2022

The loss of a pregnancy can be an emotionally traumatic experience and the support or lack of support from professional care providers and systematic barriers within healthcare organizations impacts the grieving trajectory. Nearly half of the Narrative Inquiry in Bioethics story authors in this symposium indicated that they were healthcare professionals, which, to their surprise, did not buffer the shock and emotional trauma of the loss. For this subset of authors, reflections on the assets and perils of this juxtaposition in the caregiving dyad revealed unique professional and systematic practice gaps and presented opportunities for improvement…

Tasked for Compassion: Initiating Reproductive Grief Care in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, 2022

The experience of parenting a premature or ill infant in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) can be overwhelming and traumatic. Parents who have previously endured a reproductive loss may find that an accumulation of escalating distress related to nurturing a neonate while receiving care in intensive care compounded with lingering grief from a prior perinatal loss can overwhelm their capability to cope. The ambiguous nature of perinatal loss and societal disenfranchisement of the grief often results in a prolonged or complicated bereavement trajectory which can inhibit bonding, mental health, and physical wellness. The frequent contact and perinatal conversations between parents and clinicians provide opportunities for essential discussions about emotional vigor, grief, and bereavement. A review of the literature and current research found that initiating conversations and care modalities that facilitate Worden’s “tasks of grieving” can foster a necessary healing pattern for bereaved
parents. These efforts will theoretically nurture parent–child bonding and promote desirable neonatal outcomes.
Keywords: Bereavement, Fetal demise, Miscarriage, Neonatal intensive care unit, Perinatal loss, Reproductive grief, Stillbirth

Promoting a healing trajectory: Providing reproductive bereavement care for the sexually exploited, 2022 The Institute’s presentation at the 24th Nursing Network on Violence Against Women International (NNVAWI) Conference Proceedings

Roughly ninety per cent of exploited or enslaved individuals are trafficked into the sex industry, increasing the risk for unintended pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections and pelvic inflammatory infections which can increase risk for pregnancy loss and infertility. Incomplete miscarriages and abortions are common reasons for sexually exploited victims to seek healthcare. Even in situations where sexual exploitation is absent, reproductive grief reactions in comparison to traditional types of mourning experiences like the death of a parent or a sibling have been associated with an increased incidence of maladaptive biopsychosocial reactions. The bereaved often report a lack of emotional validation and minimization of reproductive grief by the healthcare providers they encountered during or shortly after the loss. Those captivated in sexually exploitative situations are typically unacknowledged both as a group and individually and are even more vulnerable to a doubly disenfranchised reproductive grief trajectory. Research indicates that if these persons have their grief acknowledged, enfranchised, and are provided with follow-up strategies they can begin to make sense of their losses and begin healing from the pain. Through compassion and empathy, the negative impact of disenfranchised grief related to reproductive losses for those victimized by sexual exploitation can be mitigated one person at a time.

Uncovering Prolonged Grief Reactions Subsequent to a Reproductive Loss: Implications for the Primary Care Provider 2022  Research that exposes years of silent grief and suffering after pregnancy loss.

The study examines how the emotional impact of pregnancy loss can be felt for years or decades after the loss, especially in cases where grief is disenfranchised, marginalized or unresolved. The study analyzes 164 stories posted anonymously on our healing websites MiscarriageHurts.com and AbortionChangesYou.com over a six-month period between November 2019 and May 2020. The stories were reviewed for details regarding the time span between the pregnancy loss and the composition of the blog post, and then analyzed for subsequent relationship problems and detrimental mental health conditions. Additional information on this research is available in our press release, and also at its “Research Reveals,” online event, where we discuss this study in detail with its four leading researchers. This study is valuable for anyone with an interest in better understanding the prolonged, emotional impact of pregnancy loss – grief reactions that weren’t even acknowledged until the 1970s.

Tackling burnout, exhaustion and compassion fatigue: A collection of research 2020

Our team spent months gathering the latest and most impactful research on preventing burnout, exhaustion, and compassion fatigue, especially as it affects perinatal and palliative healthcare, to create this study that analyzes this body of work. Fostering Vicarious Resilience for Perinatal Palliative Care Professionals is vital for any caregiver, supervisor, or healthcare professional concerned with burnout, exhaustion, and compassion fatigue. It offers the critical insights needed to combat and prevent these issues from impacting patient care. Additional information on this research is available at its “Research Reveals,” online event, where we discuss this study in detail with its four leading researchers.

Reproductive grief care: Giving permission to grieve, Information on Reproductive Grief Care as presented in the Sigma Repository, which shares research and work created by nurses globally.