It's important to know the warning signs of potential pregnancy complications in both you and your baby. But when it comes to preventing stillbirth (and reducing your risk of maternal mortality and other adverse outcomes), it's even more important that you feel empowered to speak up!
#AlwaysAsk started as a campaign by Tommy's in the UK to empower pregnant people to overcome fears about speaking to their health professionals about any concerns. They found that 60% of pregnant mothers worried about wasting their provider's time before raising a concern, and almost 30% didn’t speak up as a result.
Your prenatal providers WANT to hear from you! They know that more often than not, most concerns will turn out to be a "false alarm" - but any doctor who is worthy of being on your pregnancy team would rather hear from you 99 times for "no reason" than miss that 1 time you truly needed their help.
If you have ANY CONCERNS about the wellbeing of your baby or yourself, put in a call to your healthcare provider, or better yet, head to the Labor & Delivery unit at your nearest hospital to be checked out. It's always better to ask!
Pregnancy 'Red Flags' to Know
Maternal Health Red Flags:
The CDC has compiled an excellent list of urgent maternal warning signs for their #HearHer campaign. Take a few moments to familiarize yourself with these concerning pregnancy symptoms, then save a copy of their reminder graphic to your phone - better yet, share it with your partner/family so they can help look out for you, too!
Fetal Health Red Flags:
A change in your baby's movements is the most likely signal you'll notice if your baby is in distress - that's why it's so important to #KnowYourNormal and be aware of your baby's movements (see #MovementsMatter).
Other signs of fetal distress in pregnancy (or what your doctor may call "nonreassuring fetal status" or NRFS) are typically detected through changes in your baby's heart rate or your amniotic fluid (for example, if your water breaks and looks brownish instead of clear). These symptoms MUST be evaluated by a trained medical professional, so do not delay in seeking help if you suspect any changes to your baby's status!
Most important, always remember: You are your baby's best advocate! No one knows your baby or your body better than YOU!
Should I Use a Home Doppler?
While many of the families at PUSH enjoy listening to our baby's heartbeat during pregnancy, our medical advisors were uncharacteristically unanimous on one point: home dopplers, phone apps, and other hand-held monitors are for fun only.
Tragically, there have been cases when a parent had concerns about their baby's wellbeing and was falsely reassured by the heartbeat readout on a home device - only to learn at their next appointment that they missed their only chance to act, and their baby had since died. The presence of a heartbeat alone does not mean all is well. Concerns MUST be evaluated by a trained medical professional.
While an entertaining way to bond with your baby, these devices don’t always give an accurate picture of your baby’s health. Again, if you have ANY concerns, your doctor would always prefer that you ask!
If you do choose to use a Home Doppler despite the above points, we strongly urge that you always ask yourself *before* you pick up the Doppler: Do I have concerns about my baby's well-being? If the answer is YES, then resolve to go to the hospital for a check-up NO MATTER WHAT the Doppler shows. This is absolutely critical!
Don't Play the Odds - Speak Up!
1 in 170 pregnancies end in stillbirth in the US. At less than 1%, that may not seem very likely - but it actually accounts for more child deaths each year than preterm birth, SIDS, car accidents, drowning, guns, fire, flu, poison, and listeria COMBINED. (Seriously!)
If you suspect something may be wrong, don't panic - but also, don't dismiss your own concerns. You are an empowered pregnant person, and you #KnowYourNormal. Reach out to your medical team for help, and if they aren't listening to you, #UseYourMomVoice and find someone who will!
We know (from experience) that it can be very uncomfortable speaking up in pregnancy, especially if you aren't sure if what you are experiencing is a valid reason to be worried. Medical paternalism and structural racism are real, and shockingly prevalent (see #BirthEquity). Sadly (and infuriatingly) we can't guarantee that your concerns will be well-received. But we can guarantee that it is always worth it to do whatever it takes to make yourself heard.
Remember: pregnancy is one of the few instances in your life when decisions are literally life and death. You are a parent already. If you don't speak up for yourself and your baby, who will? You can do this - and we're here to help.