Updated: May 18
Stillbirth Advocates Descend on Washington, D.C. to Demand Action to Address Nation's Stillbirth Crisis
Why We Need Change: Stillbirth is a Silent Public Health Crisis. Over 21,000 Babies are Born Still Every Year in the United States; 1,175 in the DMV Area Alone. Many of These Deaths are Preventable.
PUSH for Empowered Pregnancy & Other Stillbirth Prevention Advocates Gather with Congressional Representatives to Raise Awareness of the Epidemic of Preventable Stillbirth in the U.S. and Call for an End to this Devastating Public Health Crisis.
WASHINGTON, DC - Wednesday, May 10th through Friday, May 12th, 2023, PUSH for Empowered Pregnancy (PUSH) is heading to Washington, D.C. as part of a coalition of 30 stillbirth advocates from across the country to bring attention to the stillbirth crisis.
The advocacy trip, organized by Healthy Birth Day, Inc. the nonprofit organization behind the Count the Kicks stillbirth prevention campaign, and comprising bereaved parents and allies from several nonprofits (including 2 Degrees Foundation, Aaliyah in Action, Surviving Siblings, Melinated Moms, and PUSH, amongst others), as well as The Bachelor Alum and stillbirth mom Ashley Spivey are calling on elected officials to make stillbirth awareness and prevention a priority. Advocates will be meeting with members of Congress to share their personal experiences and urge lawmakers to take action to address this pressing public health crisis.
Advocates will be gathering for a photo at 12 noon on Thursday, May 11th on the steps of the Capitol (the U.S. House side, on the North end) with Senator Jeff Merkey and Representative Ashley Hinson. (Rep. Hinson and Sen. Merkley are lead sponsors on the Maternal and Child Health Stillbirth Prevention Act.)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines a stillbirth as the death of a baby in utero at or after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Many of these deaths are otherwise healthy babies and occur in normal, uneventful, low-risk pregnancies. According to the CDC, more than 21,000 babies are born still every year in the United States, including 1,175 babies in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia (CDC Wonder Database). A recent NICHD Stillbirth Working Group called the stillbirth rate “unacceptably high” and echoed advocates’ pleas for urgent change to save lives.
21,000+ babies are born still in the U.S. every year, including 1,175 babies in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia - that’s 1 in 170 pregnancies
65 babies are lost to stillbirth every day in the U.S. - that’s three kindergarten classes every single day
Stillbirth claims more children’s lives in the U.S. each year than prematurity, SIDS, car accidents, drowning, guns, fire, flu, poison, and listeria COMBINED (Graphic)
Black mothers are twice as likely to suffer a stillbirth, compared to other races (CDC Wonder)
Research shows that at least 25% of U.S. stillbirths are preventable; for term pregnancies (37+ weeks), that jumps to nearly half (47%) of stillbirths
Stillbirth is closely linked to maternal mortality and morbidity - mothers who deliver a stillborn baby are almost five times as likely to experience severe maternal complications
Stillbirth is intimately correlated with other adverse pregnancy outcomes, particularly maternal mortality and morbidity, and many stillbirths are, like these other outcomes, rooted in systemic and structural racism and bias in healthcare, inadequate access to prenatal care and maternal health services, and a lack of research and funding for maternal health issues. Addressing these underlying issues will require a comprehensive approach that involves policymakers, healthcare providers, and community stakeholders.
The Black Maternal Health community has rallied to stand in solidarity with stillbirth parents, and to advocate for stillbirth prevention strategies, many of which will likewise reduce other maternal and infant deaths, improving pregnancy outcomes across the board. In fact, if the U.S. closed the racial disparity gap in stillbirths between Black and White families, over 4,000 lives would be saved each year, representing an overall 17% reduction in stillbirth.
“Two days before my due date in 2013, I walked into the hospital in labor thinking I was finally bringing home my baby girl. Instead, I walked out with empty arms and a lifetime of excruciating what-ifs,” says PUSH Executive Director Samantha Banerjee, who will be in attendance with the advocates in D.C. this week. “Every day, 65 U.S. families face the same brutal end to their otherwise normal and healthy pregnancies, and most of us never even heard the word ‘stillbirth’ before it happened to us. Families like mine were robbed of the chance to save our babies because no one ever bothered to inform us that stillbirth is a risk. In Alana's name and that of the tens of thousands of other American children who die like her every year, we are demanding change.”
Advocates are asking that stillbirth be explicitly included in the Title V Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Block Grant to encourage states to make stillbirth prevention a priority by educating families, and that Congress pass the bipartisan Stillbirth Health Improvement and Education (SHINE) for Autumn Act, which invest in research and data collection required to better understand and combat the stillbirth epidemic. Both of these critical pieces of legislation are expected to be reintroduced to Congress in the coming weeks, and must be passed urgently to stem the tide of preventable stillborn deaths.
Deb Haine Vijayvergiya, mother to Autumn Joy for whom the SHINE for Autumn act is named, says, “The stillbirth of a precious baby is an inexplicable loss of life, an incomprehensible tragedy. Stillbirth has gone unaddressed for far too long in the United States and we cannot afford to continue neglecting the issue. Babies dying at these rates should not be considered the norm. We have a responsibility to understand why stillbirths are happening and identify what can be done to combat this crisis. The time is NOW to SHINE a light on the stillbirth crisis in our country!”
This week’s advocacy trip takes place during the inaugural Postpartum Awareness Week (PAW) (https://www.speakmovechange.net/paw), a new campaign urging the nation to focus attention, resources, and energy on the Postpartum Period (4th Trimester) when Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color (BIPOC) women and birthing parents are most at risk for pregnancy-related complications and fatal outcomes. Given that Black and Indigenous parents are at 2-3 times the risk of stillbirth, that women who experience a stillbirth are almost 5 times as likely to experience severe maternal complications, and that more than half of maternal deaths occur in the Postpartum period, these issues are intimately linked. PUSH for Empowered Pregnancy is proud to be part of the collective launching PAW and a sponsor of the initiative, and PUSH advocates will be raising awareness about the unique dangers faced by stillbirth parents, and particularly BIPOC stillbirth parents, in the postpartum period.
PUSH Co-Director of Communications Camila Caster and Ana Vick, who will also be attending the D.C. meetings, reaffirmed the need for urgent action to address the twin epidemics of stillbirth and maternal mortality. “Stillbirth and maternal mortality are both symptoms of a broken healthcare system that fails to prioritize the needs of women and families,” said Camila Caster. “We are working in lockstep with our friends in maternal health activism to present solutions that address the underlying causes of both these issues and ensure that every parent and baby receives the care they deserve. We must make progress towards ending preventable stillbirth and improving maternal health outcomes for all families. These issues go hand in hand.”
“This is the second year I’m taking time away from my two living children and husband to go to D.C. from North Carolina to advocate for stillbirth prevention,” adds Ana Vick, mother to Owen Nathaniel, who was born still in 2015 after a “textbook” perfect pregnancy. “It is unacceptable to my husband Joshua and I that nothing has been done since our son, Owen, died 7 years ago to stop this public health crisis from continuing to shatter families like ours. Our children are not a statistic, though our country’s terribly high rate of stillbirth should stop lawmakers in their tracks. We cannot allow a single parent to be blindsided by stillbirth if it can be prevented, which in many cases we know it could have been. We are too late to save our babies, but we will not be silent and allow this epidemic to continue to take other healthy babies like ours,” Ana vows.
Says Emily Price, CEO of Healthy Birth Day, Inc., “This visit is about the power of our stories. Tens of thousands of Americans endure the tragedy of stillbirth each year and every member of Congress needs to know the devastating impact on parents, families and communities. And then we URGE THEM TO PASS meaningful legislation that will bring real change to how America addresses the stillbirth crisis."
Postpartum Awareness Week (PAW) was launched by a collective of maternal health organizations led by The ARIAH Foundation, Dr. Shalon's Maternal Action Project, and the Tatia Oden French Memorial Foundation. PUSH is a proud member of the PAW collective and sponsor of the campaign, as Black mothers are more than twice as likely to suffer a stillbirth, and stillbirth mothers are almost five times as likely to experience severe maternal complications. Postpartum recovery is essential after every pregnancy, regardless of the outcome.
About PUSH for Empowered Pregnancy
We're on a mission to end preventable stillbirth, and we're not taking no for an answer.
65 babies are dying in the second half of pregnancy every single day in the U.S. - that’s 21,000 each year, most of them otherwise healthy, and all of them deeply loved. Many of these babies were our babies, and many of them could have been saved.
PUSH for Empowered Pregnancy exists for one reason, and one reason alone: to cut the US stillbirth rate by 20% by the end of 2030, in half by 2050, and in time, eradicate all preventable stillbirths. We are a diverse coalition of bereaved parents from around the country, and we are working closely with trailblazing medical researchers, courageous doctors, and other hardworking allies to drive down the incidence of stillbirth in the United States over the next decade by any means necessary.
Through partnerships with health providers and aggressive awareness campaigns, we will empower every expectant family with the equitable, evidenced-based medical care and education they need to advocate for a healthy pregnancy, giving parents and babies the best possible chance to make it home safely together.
No family should have to endure what we have endured. We are saying ENOUGH.
#UnitedWePush For Families, For Babies. For Change.
Learn more at www.pushpregnancy.org