The lived experiences of mothers who had intra-uterine fetal death (IUFD) in Gulu District, Northern Uganda
Background Intra-uterine fetal death (IUFD) is devastating to expectant mothers with adverse consequences for the individual couple and these include isolation, increased anxiety in the subsequent pregnancy, social stigma, family disintegration and loss of trust in the health care system. This leads to the feeling of inadequacy, distress, physical and social effects, with neglect of other children as the parents are pre-occupied (Burden et al., 2016). Objectives: This study Explores the lived experiences and coping strategies of women who had an IUFD in Gulu district. Methods: A exploratory qualitative study was done. Fifteen in-depth interview were conducted in Luo using an interview guide. Study participants were Purposively selected using the hospital maternity register. The actual sample size was determined by the principle of saturation and data was analyzed concurrently with interviews using content analysis. Transcripts were coded manually, categories developed and themes derived. Results are presented in form of text and quotes from participants. Results: Three themes emerged from the data; 1) Response to the loss, 2) interractions with health workers and 3) coping with the loss. Having a IUFD was described by mothers as a painful and heart breaking experience, with some of the participants abandoned/neglected and blamed. Interractions with healthworkers were both negative and positive. Some mothers were supported by health workers, families and community members, while others were neglected and blamed. Social support from health workers, family and community members included; counselling, financial support, and showing empathy which helped them cope with the loss. Other coping mechanisms included; spirituality, acceptance, isolation and separation. Conclusion Having an IUFD was a traumatising experience and caused a high emotional burden to women. Social support from health workers, family and community was a key coping mechanism. The capacity of the health system needs to be built in order to provide adequate care and support to women with IUFD. Key words: IUFD, experiences, coping, grief, and loss.