Transition, Turbulence, and Relationship-Focused Coping During Pregnancy After Perinatal Loss

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The findings of clinical studies reveal that the subsequent pregnancy after perinatal loss (PAL) is a stressful experience for parents. However, these studies have mainly focused on stressors related to the pregnancy itself. The dissertation study attempted to understand how couples experience the waiting period before conceiving after a perinatal loss and the timeframe of the subsequent pregnancy. Additionally, the goal of the current study was to address two existing gaps in perinatal loss research within the field of communication and relationship research. First, limited studies illustrate couples' resilience during the period after perinatal loss and subsequent pregnancy. The current study adopts Solomon and colleagues' (2016) Relational Turbulence Theory (RTT) and Coyne and Smith's (1991) Relationship-Focused Model (RFCM) as the theoretical frameworks to explore couples' perception of self, partner, and relationship during the waiting period and subsequent pregnancy. Second, extant research within the field has explored couples' experience of perinatal loss, emphasizing grief and bereavement of the pregnancy. Limited research exists on relationship functioning and maintenance as couples navigate the period after perinatal loss. Nelson and colleagues (2017) conceptualized the waiting period as the time after period loss when couples are ready for another pregnancy. Eight heterosexual married couples participated in the study. After an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) (Smith et al., 1999) of the data collected using individual and couple interviews, the findings of my study present how couples make sense of PAL as a transitional event, issues of relational turbulence and interdependence (Solomon et al., 2016) that characterized their experience. Given the tendency of PAL to create relationship strain and stress, the couples in my study adapted behaviors similar to active engagement and protective buffering (Coyne & Smith, 1991) to navigate this experience. Despite this study's success, the methodological limitation related to its homogenous sample includes the absence of participants involved in committed same-sex relationships and cohabiting couples. Nevertheless, the study presented five practical implications for professionals and individuals and are committed to helping couples navigate the period of PAL as well as several theoretical contributions to RTT and RFCM.

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