The role and attributes of social networks in the provision of support to women after stillbirth: experiences from Uganda

Eric Ssegujja, Yusuf Mulumba, Sally Guttmacher, Michelle Andipatin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Communities exert stigma on mothers after stillbirth despite their potential to offer social support to the grieving family. Maternal healthcare-seeking behaviors are socially reinforced rendering a social network approach vital in understanding support dynamics which when utilized can improve community response to mothers experiencing stillbirth. However, the form and direction of social support for women when in need is not clear. The study explored the role and attributes of women’s social networks in the provision of support to mothers who have experienced a stillbirth in Uganda. Methods: An exploratory cross-sectional study design adopting a social network approach was conducted. Data collection following established procedures was conducted on a convenient sample of 17 mothers who had experienced a stillbirth six months before the study. Frequencies and bivariate analysis were conducted to determine the factors influencing the provision of social support from 293 network members elicited during the alter generation. We then performed a Poisson regression on each of the social support forms and the explanatory variables. Network structure variables were calculated using UCINET version 6 while Netdraw facilitated the visualization of networks. Results: Overall, social support was available from all network relations mentioned by the respondents. No major variations were observed between the two time periods during pregnancy and following a stillbirth. The most common support received was in form of intangible support such as emotional and information support, mainly from females who were married and from the naturally occurring networks such as family and friends. We also observed that social support followed patterns of network relational characteristics including trust, frequency of contact and alters counted on for support more likely to provide the same. Conclusions: A great potential for social support exists within women’s social networks to help address stillbirth risk factors during pregnancy and cope after experiencing the same. Alter characteristics like being female, married, and from naturally occurring networks together with relational characteristics such as trust, frequency of contact, and count on alter for support were predictors of eventual social support. Interventions aiming at addressing stillbirth risks at the community level ought to harness these network characteristics for benefits to the mothers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number352
JournalBMC Women's Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021


  • Social network
  • Social support
  • Stillbirth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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