Open Access Research article

Long-term impact of intrauterine fetal death on quality of life and depression: a case–control study

Ida Kathrine Gravensteen14, Linda Bjørk Helgadottir125, Eva-Marie Jacobsen15*, Per Morten Sandset15 and Øivind Ekeberg34

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Haematology, Oslo University Hospital, Ulleval, Box 4950, Nydalen, N-0424, Oslo, Norway

2 Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Oslo University Hospital, Ulleval, Oslo, Norway

3 Department of Acute Medicine, Oslo University Hospital, Ulleval, Oslo, Norway

4 Department of Behavioural Sciences in Medicine, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway

5 Institute of Clinical Medicine, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway

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BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 2012, 12:43  doi:10.1186/1471-2393-12-43

Published: 7 June 2012



Intrauterine fetal death (IUFD) is a serious incidence that has been shown to impact mothers’ psychological well-being in the short-term. Long-term quality of life (QOL) and depression after IUFD is not known. This study aimed to determine the association between intrauterine fetal death and long-term QOL, well-being, and depression.


Analyses were performed on collected data among 106 women with a history of intrauterine fetal death (IUFD) and 262 women with live births, 5–18 years after the event. Univariable and multivariable linear and logistic regression models were used to quantify the association between previous fetal death and long-term QOL, well-being and depression. QOL was assessed using the QOL Index (QLI), symptoms of depression using the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (CES-D), and subjective well-being using the General Health Questionnaire 20 (GHQ-20).


More of the cases had characteristics associated with lower socioeconomic status and did not rate their health as good as did the controls. The QLI health and functioning subscale score was slightly but significantly lower in the cases than in the controls (22.3. vs 23.5, P = .023). The CES-D depressed affect subscale score (2.0 vs 1.0, P = 0.004) and the CES-D global score (7.4 vs 5.0, P = .017) were higher in the cases. Subjective well-being did not differ between groups (20.6 vs 19.4, P = .094). After adjusting for demographic and health-related variables, IUFD was not associated with global QOL (P = .674), subjective well-being (P = .700), or global depression score (adjusted odds ratio = 0.77, 95% confidence interval 0.37–1.57).


Women with previous IUFD, of which the majority have received short-term interventions, share the same level of long-term QOL, well-being and global depression as women with live births only, when adjusted for possible confounders.

Trial registration

The study was registered at webcite, with registration number NCT 00856076.

Intrauterine fetal death; Quality of life; Depression; Well-being; Socioeconomic status