by Lindsey Wimmer, RN, MSN, CPNP
October is upon us! For some it is a time for apple orchards, hay rides, pumpkin patches, and raking leaves. For those who have suffered the death of a baby, October is also known as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Month.
We are reminded this month of staggering numbers. Over 2000 babies in the United States die from SIDS every year. Almost 30,000 babies in the United States are stillborn in the last half of the pregnancy. Tens of thousands more die during the early months of pregnancy or as a result of prematurity. It is difficult to find even a single person or family who doesn’t have some connection to these tragedies. This is why awareness is so important – it can hit any of us at any time, but it is rarely discussed.
Hundreds of families and organizations will be holding events this month to recognize their children and promote awareness. Some will be fun, some educational, and some touching. Families may hold a fundraiser, attend a memorial service, or simply spend time alone honoring and remembering their child. Friends and family members can do the same!
We just returned from Baltimore where the ISA and ISPID international conference on SIDS/Stillbirth was held. First Candle did a fantastic job organizing and hosting this event. They beautifully presented research findings, honored babies, and supported families. The 50th Anniversary celebration of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute for Child Health and Development reminded us how far we’ve come!
One of the most striking aspects of this recent conference was the breadth of losses that were represented. I spoke with families who have suffered infertility, miscarriage, stillbirth, SIDS, and other forms of infant death. Some of their children would be just days old, and some would be 40 years old! It is incredible how all of these families come together to advocate for better care that will reduce these tragedies. I think this reinforces that these are losses that families don’t “get over” regardless of how much time has passed. I am also sad that I met too many new friends only because we share this pain. We need to keep pushing so that someday there will not be new members to this “club” at such staggering rates.
Star Legacy Foundation is hoping to contribute to stillbirth prevention efforts. The STARS study is in progress and we invite you and your loved ones to participate. In order to learn about risk factors and possible characteristics of pregnancies ending in stillbirth, we developed an online survey. Mothers who have ever had a stillbirth, have a newborn baby less than 3 weeks old, or who are in the third trimester of pregnancy are invited to participate. Visit our website for details or to take the survey (www.starlegacyfoundation.org).
There will be numerous walks, runs, and other special events this month. We understand there are many other important causes being honored this month as well and it is difficult to spread time and resources around. On behalf of all families affected by pregnancy and infant loss, please consider supporting these families as they continue on the hardest journey of their lives. This may be attending an event, donating to an organization, telling a friend about this awareness effort, letting the family know you’re thinking about them and their family, or offering a small prayer.
I hope and pray that some October soon I’ll be able to think back to when this problem was so much bigger.
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