Trigger warning: Pregnancy loss, stillbirth
It doesn’t scare most women because we don’t think it will happen to us or that it even still exists today.
I’ll sheepishly raise my hands and confess that I naively thought stillbirth was something that happened back in my grandparents’ day or to pregnant women who have health problems or are addicted to drugs.
Then it happened to me.
I had a completely routine and normal pregnancy. I had three living children. I had no health concerns and passed every single prenatal test perfectly. I was 36 weeks and literally counting down the days and wondering when my baby would make her appearance.
As a snowstorm raged outside, I settled into a warm bath to read a book. I noticed my baby didn’t kick when I rested my hands and book upon my belly as she always did.
“Babies move less at the end of pregnancy because they run out of room.”
“Baby is probably just sleeping.”
Well-meaning people told me outdated lies, but the doctor confirmed my worst fears. My baby no longer had a heartbeat.
In the United States, stillbirth effects 1 in 160 pregnancies. That’s 24,000 babies every single year. The number of stillbirths in the U.S. every year is equal to the number of infant deaths due to prematurity and SIDS combined. In fact, stillbirth is 10 times more likely than SIDS. Every new mother knows about SIDS, and the “Back-to-Sleep” campaign has greatly reduced the numbers of deaths. Educating mothers means empowering them to save their baby’s life.
Stillbirth is shrouded in darkness. The silence and stigma of speaking of a baby’s death is alienating grieving parents, and stopping investment into research.
Pregnant women don’t have to be scared though. They need to start counting.
In the state of Iowa, a group of bereaved mother’s started a campaign called “Count the Kicks.” The concept is simple: Pick a time each day to stop and spend with your baby. Count the kicks, using their app, and track your baby’s movements starting at 28 weeks. If baby’s movements are suddenly changed, contact your health care provider immediately.
Don’t worry that you’re overreacting or that a health care professional will think you’re being dramatic. If you notice, or think you notice, a change in baby’s movements, contact your doctor and head to the closest L&D to be checked out right away. Better safe than sorry.
Since implementing the campaign in Iowa, the state has seen a 26% decrease in the number of stillbirths. The state went from the thirty-third worst state for stillbirths to the third lowest in the country. This is amazing.
I know it’s hard to find time. I know an active baby kicks all the time, and sometimes it can be stressful to think about why you are making the time to monitor your baby’s movements.
So, why count? Because it could literally save your baby’s life.
Pregnant women often aren’t informed of the stillbirth risk because physicians don’t want to “scare” pregnant women. Apparently we are fragile creatures who can’t handle information that could be pertinent to saving our babies’ lives. Apparently it’s easier to simply let our baby die then to deal with facts and learn how to mitigate the risks.
It is time for women to stand up and demand better for ourselves and our babies. Educate, speak about stillbirth, and count those kicks every day.