Background: If a mother experiences a change in the pattern of movement of her unborn baby, it could be indicative that the baby is unwell or has died in utero. Aim: To study mothers’ experiences during the time prior to receiving news that their unborn baby has died in utero. Method: In-depth interviews were conducted with 26 mothers whose babies died prior to birth, which were then analysed using content analysis.
Results: Twenty-two mothers described a premonition that something had happened to their unborn baby, a sense based on a lack of movement from the baby. Six categories were constructed from the analysis of the interviews describing the mother’s insight that the baby’s life was threatened; 1. Not feeling in touch with their baby 2. Worry 3. Feeling something is wrong 4. Not understanding the unbelievable 5. Wanting information 6. Being certain that their baby had died.
The overarching theme – “There is something wrong” was formulated. The mothers’ experiences can be illustrated as gradually descending a staircase towards the insight that their baby’s life was threatened.
Conclusion: The mothers tried to curb their worry by normalising the baby’s lack of movement. Additionally, reassurance from family and health-care professionals delayed an investigation of the baby’s wellbeing. The mother could not understand the unbelievable; that the baby had died in utero. Implications: Expectant mothers should be cautioned to trust their insights and seek medical advice straightaway if they are concerned over the lack of movement from the unborn baby.
Key words: stillborn, premonition, intuition, in utero movement, content analysis