The prevalence and challenges of abandoned dead neonates in an African referral center
Background Dead neonates are often preserved in the mortuary pending until parents/caregivers’ collect them for formal burial. This study reports the prevalence and challenges of abandoned dead neonates in an African referral center.
Materials and methods The clinical and mortuary records of all dead neonates at the University of Benin Teaching Hospital between January 2006 and December 2010 were retrospectively reviewed to determine the prevalence, influencing factors, and challenges of abandoned dead neonates.
Results A total of 1093 (22.9%) mortalities were recorded among 4781 neonates. The prevalence of abandoned dead neonates was 77.2% as 844 of the 1093 dead neonates were abandoned to the hospital and given mass burial by an assigned government agency after at least 3 months of abandonment. This was challenging as an average of 85 dead neonates were given mass burial every 6 months to decongest the mortuary. Of 618 illiterate parents/caregivers of low socioeconomic class, 520 (84.1%) abandoned their dead babies. This was extremely significant statistically when compared with 324 (68.2%) bodies abandoned by 475 literate parents/caregivers in upper/middle class (P < 0.0001). Surgical neonates, neonates with obvious congenital anomalies, and babies from the third birth positions onward were mostly abandoned.
Conclusion We advocate the need for public enlightenment campaign to modify present parents/caregivers’ attitudes toward dead neonates. Hospital-based postbereavement programs should be organized to help parents/caregivers adjust appropriately to neonatal deaths. Those with dead neonates should be exempted from paying hospital bills.
Keywords: abandonment, challenges, dead neonates, prevalence