Introduction: Loss of a child through stillbirth or miscarriage creates a unique grief response in parents. Yet, the majority of research on parental response to stillbirth or miscarriage has focused on maternal reactions. Increasing research on paternal reactions to adverse birth outcomes suggests that fathers likely experience similar reactions compared to mothers. Thus, the current study summarized the literature on grief and bereavement reactions in fathers who have experienced miscarriage or stillbirth through a scoping review. The specific aims of this review were to (1) summarize and provide a meta-estimate (if possible) of paternal grief, (2) characterize grief in relation to timing of loss, (3) examine the interaction with maternal grief responses and (4) summarize clinical implications and provide recommendations for future research directions.
Methods: CINAHL, PsycINFO, MEDLINE/PubMed, and Embase databases were systematically searched to identify empirical research on paternal grief responses to stillbirth or miscarriage. Five studies met inclusion criteria and were included in the review.
Results: Studies indicated that paternal grief is relatively high and increases in intensity in relation to gestational age, such that the grief response increases with increased gestational age. Four studies conducted analyses on the interaction between maternal and paternal grief response, which generally indicated that maternal grief is significantly higher than paternal grief at multiple time points.
Conclusion: The results of this review indicated that fathers are susceptible to similar grief responses compared to mothers in specific subscales of grief measures. As such, fathers should be strongly considered when maternal reactions to stillbirth or miscarriage are screened and/or addressed by health care professionals. Bereavement interventions and health care strategies that specifically focus on paternal grief reactions may be advantageous.