As we approach the anniversary of 9/11, now is an appropriate time to revisit a study published in the March/April 2008 issue of the Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health called “The Lived Experience of Widowhood in Pregnancy.” This groundbreaking study examined the experiences of women who were pregnant when their husbands were killed in the 9/11 attacks or while serving in the US military during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
This was the first study to examine the experiences of pregnant widows. (Most previous studies of widowhood have focused on women in their 60s or older.) Authors examined the experiences of 10 women who lost their husbands during pregnancy. Using 8 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. The study offers strategies that midwives and other women’s health care providers can use in helping these women cope with their loss and impending motherhood.
Approximately 7 million women in the United States 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.