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On National Stillbirth Prevention Day, Parent Advocates Say “Enough is Enough”
Coalition of More Than 50 Stillbirth Prevention Advocates Descend on Washington, D.C. from Across the Nation to Meet with Congress
New Research Released Today Confirms the Placenta is Key to Preventing Previously Unexplained Stillbirths; Could Save Up to 7,000 Lives Each Year
WASHINGTON, D.C. (Sept. 19, 2023) – Today, on National Stillbirth Prevention Day, a coalition of more than 50 stillbirth prevention advocates representing 12 organizations including PUSH for Empowered Pregnancy (PUSH) and Measure the Placenta are in Washington, D.C. to meet with members of Congress and demand improved research, data collection, awareness and education to end preventable stillbirth in the United States. And new research from Yale University published today in the peer-reviewed journal Reproductive Sciences (“Placental pathology findings in unexplained pregnancy losses”) reinforces that placental measurement is one emerging tool which could save up to 7,000 children’s lives every year in the U.S.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 21,000 babies die in utero in the second half of pregnancy (after 20 weeks’ gestation) and 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. According to the CDC, families in the U.S. are 15 times more likely to lose a baby to stillbirth than to SIDS. While the rate of stillbirth has declined since the 1940s due to improvements in maternity care, that decline has slowed or halted in recent years, and there have been no national initiatives dedicated to reducing these often-preventable deaths.
“The silence around stillbirth is quite literally lethal,” said PUSH Executive Director and stillbirth mother Samantha Banerjee. Her daughter, Alana, was born still two days before her due date in 2013 after an otherwise normal and healthy pregnancy. “How are parents supposed to protect their children against a risk that they don’t even know exists? Education on stillbirth is being actively withheld from expectant families by our medical and public health institutions, and it simply isn’t fair. This reeks of paternalism, misogyny, and racism, and is intimately correlated with other adverse outcomes like maternal mortality and morbidity. It’s time for policymakers, healthcare providers, families, and other community stakeholders to come together and develop comprehensive solutions that will ensure every parent and baby gets the best possible chance to make it home safe together.”
In a report comparing progress in improving stillbirth rates, the World Health Organization (WHO) found the U.S. ranks 183 out of 195 countries in Annual Rate of Reduction of Stillbirth. 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. The bipartisan, bicameral resolution recognizing National Stillbirth Prevention Day calls on the Biden administration to begin working to reduce the stillbirth rate by at least 33%.
“A significant proportion of stillborn deaths, especially in the third trimester, are caused by a small placenta,” explains Dr. Ann O’Neill, Director of Measure the Placenta and stillbirth mother. Ann’s son, Elijah, was born still on his due date in 2018; his cause of death was later identified as a small placenta. “The research published today indicates that 1/3 of unexplained stillbirths – thousands of babies’ lives each year – are likely caused by a small placenta. Most of these were normal, healthy pregnancies without any other known risk factors for stillbirth. Most devastatingly, a variety of new technologies would have enabled providers to detect many of these small placentas in utero, flagging these pregnancies for closer monitoring and potentially averting thousands of tragedies. But American prenatal care isn’t routinely utilizing any of these tools. Bereaved parents across the nation have sent almost 6,000 letters to leadership at the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) – the body which sets prenatal care protocols for U.S. OBGYNs – asking for their support in investigating tools like Estimated Placental Volume (EPV) and proven fetal movement education programs like Count the Kicks, and we have been met with nothing but excuses and indifference. This is completely unacceptable; let’s get change started today.”
Today’s day of awareness was first recognized by Congress on Sept. 19, 2022. Today U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and Reps. Alma Adams (D-NC-12) and Ashley Hinson (R-IA-01) introduced bipartisan resolutions in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate setting aside Sept. 19 to honor the tens of thousands of American families who lose a baby to stillbirth every year and resolve to do all it can to prevent the tragedy of stillbirth from happening to more families.
National Stillbirth Prevention Day is an important opportunity to shine a light on the need for further stillbirth research and prevention programming, and to provide community to the more than 21,000 American families who experience the tragedy of stillbirth every year. In addition to the resolution, proclamations declaring Sept. 19 as Stillbirth Prevention Day will be signed in other locations. Tonight nearly 50 buildings in 23 states will be illuminated with pink and blue lights in honor of National Stillbirth Prevention Day.
"With two stillbirth prevention bills under consideration in the 118th Congress, momentum is building to finally give stillbirth prevention the attention that it has long deserved. There are solutions to save babies now. National Stillbirth Prevention Day is an important piece of the collective effort to create systemic change that can save thousands of babies and improve birth outcomes for families across the country. We are deeply grateful to Congresswomen Adams and Hinson and Senators Cassidy, Merkley and Booker for championing this issue,” said Emily Price, CEO of Healthy Birth Day, Inc.
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 invests in research and data collection required to better understand and combat the stillbirth epidemic. Both of these critical pieces of legislation are critical first steps to reducing stillbirths in the U.S. and must be passed urgently to stem the tide of preventable stillborn deaths.
Full text of the National Stillbirth Prevention Day resolution is available at Congress.gov. We encourage everyone to visit bit.ly/StopStillbirth as an easy way to learn more about stillbirth prevention legislation in the 118th Congress.
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 pushpregnancy.org
About Measure the Placenta
Measure the Placenta’s mission is to share information about placenta size as a measurable risk factor in order to potentially prevent stillbirths. We are an all-volunteer team of families who have experienced stillbirth due to an undetected very small or very large placenta, and we have joined with concerned citizens, researchers, and providers in recognizing the opportunity to save lives today by incorporating routine placental measurement into standard prenatal care to help determine the safest time for each individual baby to be born.
Learn more at measuretheplacenta.org
About Healthy Birth Day, Inc.
Healthy Birth Day, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to the prevention of stillbirth through programming, advocacy, and research. They are the primary stakeholders of the Maternal and Child Health Stillbirth Prevention Act (H.R. 4581/S. 2231) and a proud endorser of the SHINE for Autumn Act (H.R. 5012/S. 2657). Healthy Birth Day, Inc. is the creator of the Count the Kicks stillbirth prevention program, which is credited with lowering the stillbirth rate in Iowa by more than 30% in the first 10 years (2008-2018). The free Count the Kicks app is a powerful stillbirth prevention tool to help expectant parents be more in tune with their bodies and their babies.
Media contacts: Domenique Rice, PUSH for Empowered Pregnancy Operations Director 917-588-3268 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Alicia Loehlein, Measure the Placenta Communications Manager 612-590-8016 | email@example.com
Kimberly Isburg, Healthy Birth Day Inc. Communications Manager 515-494-5115 | firstname.lastname@example.org