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ACNM News Release: JMWH Publishes Groundbreaking Study

Groundbreaking Study of Widowhood During Pregnancy Published in the Journal Of Midwifery & Women’s Health

For Immediate Release -- March 3, 2008

Silver Spring, MD – A groundbreaking study examining the experiences of women who were pregnant when their husbands were killed in the 9/11 attacks or while serving in the U.S. military during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is published in the March/April 2008 issue of the Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health.

The Lived Experience of Widowhood in Pregnancy is authored by Mary Ellen Doherty, CNM, PhD and Elizabeth Scannell-Desch, RN, OCNS, PhD. Most previous studies of widowhood have focused on women in their 60s or older; this is the first study to examine the experiences of pregnant widows.

The authors examined the experiences of 10 women who lost their husbands during pregnancy. They offer strategies that midwives and other women’s health care providers can use in helping these women cope with their loss and impending motherhood. Using eight themes that emerged from the data analysis, the authors described the emotions and challenges experienced by these women, including their struggles with loss, emotional trauma, depression, and creating a support system for their birth.

Approximately seven million women in the U.S. become widows every year. It is not known how many women are pregnant at the time of their husband’s death. However, the authors emphasize that we need only look at recent historical events to see that the number of widows of childbearing age is rising. The study of these two accessible groups, whose experiences may resemble those of other pregnant widows globally, provides a basis for assessing widow’s experiences during pregnancy.

About the Authors
Mary Ellen Doherty CNM, PhD is an assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, Department of Nursing.

Elizabeth Scannell-Desch RN, OCNS, PhD is an associate professor at Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh, NY. She is chairperson in the Division of Nursing.


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