The Impact of a Bereavement Intervention on Levels of Grief in Women Who Experience Pre-Twenty Week Pregnancy Loss

Thursday, 15 July 2010: 1:45 PM

Olinda Pruitt Johnson, PhD, MS, RN
School of Nursing, Texas Womans University, Houston, TX
Rae W. Langford, EdD
College of Nursing, Texas Woman's University, Houston, TX

Learning Objective 1: discuss the role and the impact of the health care professional on the grieving process

Learning Objective 2: describe bereavement interventions to support women experiencing an early pregnancy loss.

Purpose: One in six pregnancies is lost before the 20th week of gestation and such losses can be devastating for the woman and her family.  However, the psychological impact of these losses is frequently not addressed by the health care professionals whose attention is focused on the woman’s immediate physiological needs. This study examined the impact of a secondary bereavement intervention on levels of grief in women who experienced a pre-twenty week pregnancy loss compared to women receiving the usual standard of care.

Methods: This randomized control design selected forty low income women who had experienced complete abortions at a gestational age between 12 to 20 weeks and received care in a county hospital obstetrical emergency room. Each participant provided informed consent and was randomly assigned to either the treatment group or control group. The Medical Professional Guidelines for Health Care Professionals were used to construct and implement a perinatal grief intervention for participants in the experimental group. The control group received the usual standard of care.  The Perinatal Grief Scale (PGS) was completed during a routine follow-up clinic visit two weeks after the loss.

Results: Analysis of the PGS scores revealed that active grieving was high and similar for both groups.  However, the experimental group displayed significantly lower levels of despair (t=4.80 p=.000). Despair is a complex form of grieving that is seen when coping mechanisms fail to ameliorate the grief reaction. 

Conclusion: This study concluded that the bereavement intervention was effective in ameliorating the degree of the grief reaction as measured by levels of despair in low income women experiencing an early pregnancy loss.