by Lindsey J. Wimmer, RN, MSN, PHN, CPNP, CPLC, Executive Director
October is here again – and we have another opportunity to recognize Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month! Last year, Star Legacy focused on why it’s so important to raise awareness. The lack of societal knowledge about stillbirth impacts funding for research, support of individual families, and potential for preventive actions. It’s clearly important. So – let’s go do it!
One question – HOW do I do that?!?
Be yourself and utilize your skills, talents, and networks. Awareness doesn’t have to be a big production – it can be done through little things that may not take much effort or time but can have a big impact!
Think about WHO needs to know about stillbirth. I believe every expectant family should know that it exists, what the risks are, and how to reduce those risks. Health professionals should know – especially obstetricians, midwives, social workers, and women’s health nurses. Legislators and policy makers can have a big impact on initiatives that affect prenatal health protocols, funding for prenatal care and research, support for bereaved families, and education of our society. Who do you know that might need this information?
WHAT information needs to be shared? Any new knowledge is beneficial and powerful! Think about one or two things that the person you’re addressing might be interested in or need to know. Is it the statistics? (for example – 1 in every 160 deliveries in the United States ends in stillbirth; or that African American mothers experience stillbirth rates double that of other women?; or that 26,000 babies are stillborn every year in the US alone?)
Maybe they need to hear what the risk factors are. Many families don’t realize that their risk of stillbirth is greater because of maternal age or weight, use of infertility treatments, race, gestational diabetes, pregnancy past 40 weeks gestation, smoking or smoke exposure, decreased fetal movement, etc. Or maybe they would be empowered to know how they can reduce their risk. You could share information about sleeping on your side during the third trimester, monitoring baby’s movement and reporting any changes immediately, or trusting those maternal instincts. You can even shatter some of the myths – raising your hands over your head does not cause a cord accident and babies do NOT slow down at the end of pregnancy.
Some people would appreciate knowing how they can support a friend or family member experiencing a stillbirth. You could share helpful things that others did for you and encourage them to let the family know they remember their baby. Other people want to make a difference in the future. They may want to know about legislation they can support or write a letter to their representatives about. They may be interested in knowing the financial burden that challenges many families after a stillbirth as they pay for medical bills, counseling, time off work, funeral expenses, cemetery markers, and more.
Health professionals in particular may appreciate knowing that there is more research available about ways to prevent stillbirth and support families when prevention isn’t possible. Share with them the latest studies or data from other high-income countries that are changing protocols and seeing significant reductions in stillbirth rates.
WHEN should you spread awareness? We tend to talk about awareness in October – but anytime is a great time to make others aware. Information is always powerful and useful. Feel free to share whenever you think about it!
WHERE can you spread awareness? Anywhere you encounter your friends, family, and colleagues! Holiday parties, family dinners, lunch breaks, social media – get creative!
The Star Legacy team is working to raise awareness every day. But we need your help. Don’t worry if it’s big or small because it’s all valuable.
Some ideas to get you started:
- If you love a baby who is gone too soon – light a candle in his/her memory on October 15th for the Wave of Light and share it on social media.
- Participate in a walk or other event in honor of a baby (or all babies!). Better yet – create a team and take your friends and family with you!
- Encourage your health professionals to tell pregnant women why monitoring baby’s movements is so important! You can refer them to Star Legacy Foundation’s Parenting in Pregnancy materials or give them a free copy. Make sure they know we’ll provide additional copies for their patients at no charge!
- Send a letter to your elected officials urging them to support legislation and policies designed to prevent stillbirth and other poor outcomes and provide improved support for families
- Contact a Chapter of Star Legacy Foundation to learn about how you can help their efforts.
- Host an awareness event in your community
- Use the Star Legacy Awareness Month profile frame on social media
- Share or retweet a published research study with new information about stillbirth prevention or care
- Give a copy of Parenting in Pregnancy to a pregnant woman or a health professional.
- Follow Star Legacy’s social media accounts and share information with your friends – not just your loss friends, but everyone you know who hopes and dreams of a healthy pregnancy with a good outcome..
Because every pregnancy deserves a happy ending…….