Of the 4 million babies born each year in the U.S., almost 26,000 are lost due to stillbirth – babies who die in utero past the age of viability (after 24 weeks). In fact, stillbirth is 10 times more common than Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. At your prenatal appointments, however, don’t expect your obstetrician or midwife to mention it.
“Stillbirth is the elephant in the room,” says Ruth C. Fretts, M.D., assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology and reproductive biology at Harvard Medical School and an ob/gyn at Harvard Vanguard Associates in Boston. “Everyone wants to prevent stillbirth, but no one wants to talk about it.” Why? “There hasn’t been enough data collected consistently about stillbirth,” Dr. Fretts says.
Fortunately, we should officially know more about stillbirth soon because nuMOM2b is going on right now. It’s a new study that’s collecting data from 10,000 women who are having their first baby. nuMOM2b will focus on problems during pregnancy, such as high blood pressure, babies born much too early and very small, and stillbirth. Meanwhile, “Don’t wait for the results of nuMOM2b,” Dr. Fretts says. We already know plenty about stillbirth to be proactive.
Here are three things you can do today to help ensure a safe birth:
Get a kick outta your baby! Beginning in week 28, start paying attention to your baby’s kicks. Does your baby kick more in the afternoon? When you’re hungry? Make a mental note. “A healthy baby is an active baby,” Dr. Fretts says. Also, use a Kicks Count chart to log the amount of time it takes to count 10 kicks. Repeat the same process at the same time daily and take your chart with you to your doctor visits. If you notice that your baby isn’t kicking as much as usual at a point in the day when he/she is usually active, “See if drinking a cold, sweet drink, such as orange juice, wakes your baby up,” says Linda Gaglioti, CNM, director of midwifery at the Brooklyn Birthing Center, the only free-standing birthing center in New York City. If that doesn’t get your baby moving, call your doctor.
Bug your doctor for tests. Once you have your doctor on the phone, ask about a non-stress test, biophysical profile, ultrasound and contraction stress test. Each of these four tests can help your doctor determine what’s going on in there. “Reduced fetal movement is a symptom that has to be evaluated, just like chest pain,” Dr. Fretts says. Be persistent in requesting these tests, as in “I’d like an ultrasound just to make sure everything is okay.”
Be a side snoozer. Pregnant women are notoriously sleep challenged but doing what you can to sleep like a baby can pay off. Studies show that those who sleep six hours or more each night are less likely to have prolonged labor. Sleeping on your left side as much as possible during the last trimester can also reduce the risk of stillbirth. Boppy offers the Custom Fit Total Body Pillow to help you get comfy in that position.
Pregnant and Empowered!
For more information about preventing stillbirth, visit Pregnantandempowered. It’s a new campaign First Candle and The Boppy Company are launching with support from Babies R Us to get the word out. It’s aimed at educating parents to be about prenatal health and wellness to reduce the risks of stillbirth.
FYI: This post isn’t sponsored. It’s based on my notes from the media symposium I attended in New York City that launched the Pregnant and Empowered campaign. But it may contain affiliate links to products I think are a good idea for moms to be on a budget.