“Providers need to stop being afraid of “scaring” mothers. We are not delicate flowers, we should not learn about stillbirth by it happening to us.”
New UNICEF report with stories collected by our Co-Director of Communications, Ana Lepe Vick
In this new report published January 2023, our Co-Director of Communications, Ana Lepe Vick, and other bereaved parents share their experiences to bring to light the many layers of trauma as well as physical and mental health issues experienced by families who suffered a stillbirth.
"We need to be informed about stillbirth during pregnancy, so we can take the proper steps to try to keep our babies safe – such as learning about fetal movements and advocating for continued monitoring if we notice altered movements.
And we need legislative and systemic change of the health care system to ensure all babies get a fighting chance to survive. We are tired of hearing the same heartbreaking story from families that could’ve had a different outcome.
We can’t keep letting the lack of proactive efforts to prevent stillbirths continue to take beloved babies like our son. "
PUSH Changemaker, Maria Luisa Tejada, shared her heartbreaking and traumatic loss. Even as an OBGYN herself with knowledge about stillbirth, she was unprepared for this to happen to her family and was in shock with how unsupported they were by the medical system in Mexico where her son Pablo Sawers died at 37 weeks.
"As an obstetrician trained in Switzerland, I knew what to do when my baby died at 33 weeks: Cherish the precious few moments I had with him. Hold him, take photos, cut locks of hair, make footprints, introduce him to his brother. Instead, what happened next led to years of complicated grief and PTSD. I asked to see my baby, and without warning, my husband and I were taken to the morgue where our baby was lying, frozen, in a transparent plastic bag, in a drawer. There was no birth certificate. He was never officially named. His stillbirth was not registered. His death was not counted. No investigations or tests were offered or carried out. The lack of appropriate bereavement care not only affected me as the mother, it also affected all my family and friends and put an end to my clinical career. How could I be advising pregnant women? How could I be reassuring them when I had been unable to keep my own baby alive?
In Mexico and in most LMICs, women are often never shown their baby and they are left in beds surrounded by crying living babies and nursing new mothers. Their loss is not recognized by professionals nor society. But stillbirths and perinatal loss have the same devastating and lasting impact on women worldwide. Grief needs to be acknowledged and respected, without time limit, no matter where you live, how many children you have, or whether the pregnancy was planned or not. Families everywhere deserve dignified, culturally appropriate and sensitive bereavement care."
The in-depth report also includes provider's voices including PUSH Board Member & Medical Advisor, Dr. Heather Florescue (the very first doctor in the United States to independently implement the UK Saving Babies’ Lives Care Bundle stillbirth prevention protocols starting in 2019).
"As a health care practitioner advocating for more awareness of stillbirth prevention among providers, it’s lonely – very lonely. As providers, it is hard to feel that the loss may have been prevented. But we are not educating ourselves about the causes of stillbirths. Why when we have so much data, and we can reduce the stillbirth rate, why are we doing nothing? Why do we talk about listeria, cats and hot tubs when statistically, stillbirths are much more common than infant deaths due to any of those factors? None of it makes logical sense."
Dr. Florescue speaking out about the urgent need for stillbirth prevention at The Big PUSH in Washington, D.C.
"We need to move away from the idea that cord accidents cause everything, and, instead, do what we can to address the health of the placenta. We are not properly educating ourselves or patients about fetal movement and how important it is to seek care if the baby is not moving right. It is neither costly nor time consuming to provide fetal monitoring education and systematic responses to fetal monitoring concerns. We also need to listen to patients and ensure that they are given the time and care they deserve."
We are so thankful to all who made sure that the stillbirth crisis was given the attention it deserves with the detailed research included and especially to UNICEF writer, Naomi Lindt, who reached out to Ana to help find parent voices from around the world to include in this issue. Centering the discussion of stillbirth prevention around the lived experiences of families gives providers and researchers a better understanding of the root causes and the impact of the death of each baby on their family and the community.
From the introduction: "Every day in 2021, over 5,000 babies were stillborn at 28 weeks or more of gestation. That’s a staggering 1.9 million babies stillborn in just one year... They highlight the immense and continued annual burden of stillbirths and the women in the world at greatest risk of having a stillbirth. They also call attention to the fact that when pregnant women have access to quality care, most stillbirths can be prevented.Every day in 2021, over 5,000 babies were stillborn at 28 weeks or more of gestation. That’s a staggering 1.9 million babies stillborn in just one year. "
Continue reading at data.unicef.org/resources/never-forgotten-stillbirth-estimates-report/
#UnitedWePush For Families, For Babies, For Change.
Thank you to PUSH Co-Director of Communications, Ana Vick for writing this blog post in honor of her middle child, Owen Nathaniel Vick, who was born still during delivery at 31 weeks 5 days gestation on 10/3/15 after a "textbook" perfect pregnancy.