Tuesday, 20 July 2010

For all those worrying about stillbirth, from a mum to a stillborn baby

Firstly I'd like to say that under no circumstances has this blog been written to scare anyone. Everybody's experience of pregnancy should be a wonderful time of joy as a miracle grows inside.
Statistics show that thousands of babies are born perfectly healthy each day and we hope of course that this is the case for you.

I'm writing this blog as stillbirth is such a taboo subject and not once was this mentioned by my midwife during my first pregnancy. I had no idea that stillbirth even still happened. Isn't it something that happened years ago? Isn't it much rarer now with modern medicine? It surely can't happen to me as I am young, healthy, don't smoke, drink or do drugs. I am not overweight, underweight or have any health problems. I am way past the 12 week “safe” stage. I am having a textbook pregnancy & a baby doesn't just die for no reason. It's not mentioned, so simply can't be a problem.

I am not alone in having had these thoughts. In fact nearly every parent I have since spoken to has either felt the same, or had very similar thoughts.

The fact is that stillbirth does happen and more often than you might think. In fact 17 babies a day in the UK alone are stillborn or die shortly after birth. So why the silence?

Well none of us ever want to believe or live in a world where babies can die. It just does not seem natural or right and we all assume that our children will outlive us. The thought of otherwise is just too painful to even comprehend. It is actually amazing the amount of people who share with you that they too have lost a baby once it has happened to you.
So why didn't we know this before?......... Because no one ever talks about it for fear of scaring or upsetting others.

Talking about the fact that stillbirth does happen may be uncomfortable and it is completely understandable that people do not want to even consider the possibility it could happen to them. But talking about stillbirth and knowing exactly why your midwife tells you to keep an eye on your baby's movements, could actually save your baby's life.

Putting this into perspective, on average 1,890 babies are born each day, so I am not suggesting for a moment that you should spend your whole pregnancy worrying about stillbirth. As I said before the chances are that your baby will be just fine.
What I am saying though is that you should be simply AWARE.
Aware that stillbirth does happen these days.
Aware that this is one of the reasons that your midwife says you should monitor your babies movements & let them know if something changes.
Had I been aware of this, perhaps my baby would be alive today. Perhaps I would have been more insistent that my baby's movements had reduced and that it was not just the “calm before the storm” that day on my due date.

I hope this blog can help to raise this awareness and maybe even save a very precious life.

You may be thinking “well surely people have enough to worry about when pregnant, without having to worry about stillbirth as well”.

It is worth mentioning a point that is very well made on "Chloe's Count the Kick Campaign" website (see link below) I'm guessing that you are aware that miscarriage happens. I'm guessing you have heard of SIDS and even may have looked into the steps of reducing the risk of this happening once you baby is born. You probably know all the symptoms to look out for for meningitis once your baby is here. All life and death & devastating situations that are very scary to think of, but we are still aware of them. So why shouldn't we all be aware that stillbirth happens every day? Why are we not given the vital information of why it is so important that we are aware of our baby's movements? Particularly if this awareness could saves lives.

In 2006 I gave birth to my stillborn daughter the day after my due date. After starting to feel contractions on my due date, I realised that my baby was not moving as often as she normally did. I spoke with the hospital and because she was still actually moving, I decided I was being a silly pregnant woman and it was just her getting ready to be born and my hormones making me hysterical. I was not told it could be otherwise. I did not go in to be monitored, although I felt very uneasy. I had a distinct feeling that something was not right, but kept brushing this feeling off as just being scared of the labour. After all, nothing could possibly happen this late on pregnancy, could it? When I did go in later on, the midwife did listen to her heartbeat, which at the time was fine, but I was sent home as I wasn't dilating. The next time I went to the hospital my beautiful baby's heart had stopped beating and my whole world fell apart. No reason was ever found for my baby's death.

So I'm left with the questions... If she had been monitored properly and I had been more insistent about her movements on that day, would they have realised something was not right and have given me a c-section? Would she have been ok & with us now?
Of course I'll never know, but what I do know is that if I had been aware that stillbirth does still happen every day and that a very common sign is reduced movements beforehand, I would have been at that hospital strapped to the monitoring machine as quick as anything.

My story is not one on it's own. It is one of thousands of similar stories, all from parents, most of whom like me did not even consider that stillbirth happens these days.

So can anything be done to prevent stillbirth?

There is not an easy answer to this. In my circumstances, I will never know but maybe my baby could have been saved had I had the knowledge I have now. Knowledge can only bring power.

Certainly talking about / asking about stillbirth and being aware will NOT increase the chances of it happening to you. In fact just the opposite is true which is the whole reason of me writing this blog.

Take a good look around this wonderful website and charity who is actively trying to break the silence of stillbirth and empower pregnant women to feel more confident in voicing concerns:

From my own point of view, I can only emphasise:
  • Be aware of the reason your midwife says to monitor your baby's movements. It is because changed or reduced movements could be an indication that something may be wrong with your baby.
  • Your baby is an individual and will have their own little patterns of movement. You will be aware of this even if your not fully paying attention all the time. Trust your instincts and feelings if something doesn't feel quite right.
  • Take action straight away if you have concerns for your baby's movement. The chances are that all will be fine, BUT you are not being a pain, you are not over-reacting because of hormones. It is perfectly fine to ask for your baby to be monitored for a while because you are concerned.
  • Monitoring does not just mean listening to the heartbeat for a minute which is what I thought. The midwives will strap you up to a machine that not only monitors your baby's heartbeat, but also their movements over a period of time. This monitoring can indicate if something is wrong. I only know about this as I was constantly hooked to this machine during the late stages of my next pregnancy with my son who was later born perfectly healthy.
Finally, a note to remember that although there are thousands of stories similar to mine, in perspective there are also millions of happy stories and amazing miracle stories of baby's making it through even the most difficult of situations. This blog is NOT to scare you but simply to raise awareness and break the silence of stillbirth.