Speaking up

Every few months, I read a new essay about stillbirth. Almost inevitably, the title is “Breaking the Silence of Stillbirth.” In fact, I have written one of these essays myself. Women and families should be sharing these stories, over and over again, because stillbirth remains a hidden problem. Yet, I always find myself wanting more after reading these essays. Once we have said that stillbirth is a problem, what do we do about it?

I have a piece up today at the Washington Post about what comes next. I’ve talked with some leading stillbirth experts about what the United States needs to do to tackle this problem. In countries where the government has made stillbirth reduction a priority, the rates have fallen dramatically.

Please share this story. If you have the time, register at the Post so you can leave a comment. Onward!

6 thoughts on “Speaking up

  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    I get so frustrated how no one is willing to talk about how to prevent stillbirth! My child died. My perfectly healthy, ready to live in this world, child died 5 weeks before she was meant to be born. And so many are so freaking dismissive of that because she never took a breath.

    I believe her death was completely preventable, if we had any indication anything was wrong. Of course, I was low-risk, 33 and it was my second pregnancy. No signs of anything wrong. It baffles me that OBs measure a pregnant woman’s belly and use a Doppler to listen to the heartbeat to determine the health of a baby. That tells you nothing except that the baby is alive at this moment in time. The placenta and the cord need to be studied too; they are just as important to the health of the baby as the baby’s him or herself.

    I could go on for days.

    We were encouraged NOT to have an autopsy done on Lydie. Although it was pretty clear her cord had a kink in it, I can’t believe now that we were not asked to have one done. For me, it wasn’t about the money (not even thinking of that in my haze of shock), but it was about not wanting my perfect little girl to be cut into (even though she was cremated later).

    I am working with the Star Legacy Foundation to plan a run in October called Lydie’s Loop to benefit them. Did you think of interviewing them for the article? They are about the only organization dedicated to stillbirth research, and it’s not enough.

    Will share this! Thank you Sarah!

  2. I’ve been a long time lurker since my daughter was stillborn (a little bit after Genevieve) and my son is also 2 now. I live in DC and will share this article with my support group. Thank you for writing this.

  3. Sarah, are you on Facebook? I ask because I shared your Post article early this morning and it looks like it’s been shared about 15 times off my post. Great discussion from it!

  4. Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing this article. It is very well done and talks about the stillbirth tragedy so well. I’m so glad you were able to get it published at the Washington Post! I registered so I could comment. I lost my son at 33 weeks to an “umbilical cord accident” in July of 2015. Since then, I’ve learned of the alarming, overall lack of concern within the medical profession as well as that thousands of these deaths each year are preventable. It is a shame and a complete tragedy that more isn’t being done… And I agree, it’s great to break the silence, but I too feel more needs to be done to address the issue – I think it’s great that you included statistics in your article about stillbirth actually being way more common than SIDS, etc. People need to know these things!

  5. This is such an important article that I shared with several individuals and on Facebook. I work at CDC and am dismayed that there is not more being done- personally because I lost my daughter at 41 weeks to stilbirth, but also as a public health professional, given the numbers and the limited data. Articles like this one are critical in sparking a dialogue.

  6. Sarah – I’m so sorry for your loss. Thank you for writing such an important article. Here in Iowa, our stillbirth rate has gone from 35th to 3rd lowest in just eight short years. The number of stillbirths have gone down 26 percent in a very short amount of time. The secret? A public awareness campaign called Count the Kicks. Five Des Moines moms, who all lost their daughters to stillbirth or pregnancy complications, created the awareness campaign in 2009 and today it’s saving babies across the country. The moms researched the success in Norway and it led them to kick counting. It has the backing of doctor’s offices, hospitals and clinics all over the country. Here’s how it works: When pregnant women start their 3rd trimester, it’s time to start counting.

    Here’s how to do it:

    Count the Kicks every day, preferably at the same time.
    Pick your time based on when your baby is usually active, such as after a snack or meal.
    Make sure your baby is awake first; walking, pushing on your tummy or having a cold drink are good wake-up calls.
    To get started, sit with your feet up or lie on your side. Count each of your baby’s movements as one kick, and count until you reach 10 kicks. After a few days you will be to see a pattern for your baby.
    Most of the time it will take less than a half-hour, but it could take as long as two hours.
    Log your recorded times using our Count the Kicks App or a kick chart.
    If a mom notices a change in movement, she should contact her doctor right away.

    Our Count the Kicks app is now offered in Spanish and can track multiples.

    Almost every week, we get an email from a mom who says kick counting saved her baby.

    “I awoke to the face of my OB/GYN saying, “Thank you. You saved your baby’s life!” One mom wrote.

    We hear this from moms across the country. Their words light the fire within us.

    “Everything was going beautifully with my pregnancy until one fateful afternoon, when I noticed a lack of movement in my belly. I drank juice, laid on my side, and waited…and waited…and waited until panic set in. The doctor on call told me to head to the hospital for monitoring. There we found a limp baby.

    After a second ultrasound and an unimpressive fetal heart rate, I was thrown into a wheel chair and put to sleep to get the little one out as quickly as possible. I was told that our little Cooper would not have made it through the day had I not be counting the kicks and paying attention to his movement.” Another mom said.

    At Healthy Birth Day, the non-profit organization that created Count the Kicks, the life-changing accounts keep coming in.

    A baby saved. A family tree forever altered.

    “The doctor said her blood levels were so low she wouldn’t have made it if we had waited another ten minutes to deliver her. Because of your campaign, I was more aware of her movement and able to bring attention to a problem and save her life!” Another mom told us.

    We started out hoping we would save just one baby.

    “It turns out the cord was wrapped around his neck four times and he could no longer move. Our doctor said if we hadn’t come in when we did, we could’ve had a different outcome other than his healthy birth,” one mom said.

    But the stories keep coming.

    “Ryan was born healthy despite a true knot in his umbilical cord. Because of your brochure, we took the time to get to know our unborn baby and his kicks. It truly saved our Ryan’s life,” one mom wrote us.

    “Thank you, Count the Kicks, for everything you do to educate people about kick counting. It doesn’t cost anything, but its results are priceless,” said another mom.

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