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BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2018 Jan 10;18(1):22. doi: 10.1186/s12884-017-1630-z.

Care quality following intrauterine death in Spanish hospitals: results from an online survey.

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Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Facultad de Ciencia Política y Sociología, Somosaguas, Pozuelo de Alarcon, 28223, Madrid, Spain.
Umamanita (Stillbirth Charity), C/ Hierbabuena 15, Esc B, 4 Izq, 28039, Madrid, Spain.



The objective of the study was to evaluate practices in Spanish hospitals after intrauterine death in terms of medical/ technical care and bereavement support care.


A cross-sectional descriptive study using an online self-completion questionnaire. The population was defined as women who had experienced an intrauterine fetal death between sixteen weeks and birth, either through spontaneous late miscarriage/stillbirth or termination of pregnancy for medical reasons. Respondents were recruited through an online advertisement on a stillbirth charity website and social media. The analysis used Pearson's chi-squared (p ≤ 0.05) test of independence to cross-analyse for associations between objective measures of care quality and independent variables.


Responses from 796 women were analysed. Half of the women (52.9%) had postmortem contact with their baby. 30.4% left the hospital with a least one linking object or a photograph. In 35.8% of cases parents weren't given any option to recover the body/remains. 22.9% of births ≥26 weeks gestation were by caesarean, with a significant (p < 0.001) difference between public hospitals (16.8%) and private hospitals (41.5%). 29.3% of respondents were not accompanied during the delivery. 48.0% of respondents recalled being administered sedatives at least once during the hospital stay. The autopsy rate in stillbirth cases (≥ 20 weeks) was 70.5% and 44.4% in cases of termination of pregnancy (all gestational ages). Consistent significant (p < 0.05) differences in care practices were found based on gestational age and type of hospital (public or private), but not to other variables related to socio-demographics, pregnancy history or details of the loss/death. Intrauterine deaths at earlier gestational ages received poorer quality care.


Supportive healthcare following intrauterine death is important to women's experiences in the hospital and beneficial to the grief process. Many care practices that are standard in other high-income countries are not routine in Spanish hospitals. Providing such care is a relatively new phenomenon in the Spanish health system, the results provide a quality benchmark and identify a number of areas where hospitals could make improvements to care practices that should have important psychosocial benefits for women and their families.


Hospital care; Late miscarriage; Linking objects; Mode of delivery; Perinatal autopsy; Perinatal bereavement; Postmortem contact; Sedatives; Stillbirth; Termination of pregnancy

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