This post is sponsored by Missouri Baptist Medical Center.
Three words mama: Count your kicks.
It was around Christmas and I was 37 weeks pregnant, uncomfortable and anxious to meet my baby girl. It was hard to ignore her active movements, even while chasing a toddler as well. Until the morning I was sitting at work and realized I hadn’t felt the baby move all morning. 6 hours to be exact. Panic set in and I was instructed to go straight to my provider’s office. They verified that all was well and that baby had likely been sleeping and I was relived, but also glad they took my concern seriously.
I recently met with two moms and medical professionals at Missouri Baptist Medical Center to get their top recommendations for ensuring prenatal and infant health, Miranda Coker, RN, labor and delivery nurse and certified perinatal loss care (CPLC) specialist and Sharon Anderson, MSN, RNC-OB, OB staff educator.
How can expectant moms monitor unborn babies for potential issues?
Miranda: Starting at 28 weeks, every expectant mom should begin to track baby’s movements on a daily basis, which should follow a certain pattern. If the baby varies from that pattern, it could be a sign that there’s a problem.
Expectant moms often believe that their babies will move less towards the end of the pregnancy. This is ABSOLUTELY false. If you notice any change, contact your healthcare professional immediately or go in to be evaluated at your provider’s office or the hospital. Don’t wait.
Logging your baby’s daily activity is one of the best tools we have in identifying potential issues and possibly preventing stillbirths. It’s also a great way to bond with your baby before he or she is even born. If you’re worried about being able to keep track of your baby’s movements, there’s a simple, FREE solution: the Count the Kicks app. It’s as easy as hitting a button on your smartphone every time you feel a kick or movement. The app keeps a log, so you can easily track your baby and any changes. You can even send the log to your provider.
With the Count the Kicks app, we’re empowering each mom to be baby’s advocate, while giving her that added peace of mind. There are so many factors that we can’t control; but this is one thing we can. And it works. I’ve met moms whose babies were saved because of this program.
Count the Kicks is a national stillbirth prevention campaign, which launched in 2009 in Iowa. In the time since it started, the stillbirth rate has dropped by more than 26 percent in Iowa. Historically, Missouri has an average of 458 stillbirths every year. If we can decrease our stillborn rate by 26 percent, like Iowa, 119 babies could be saved. Saving just one baby’s life – and saving a family from the heartache of losing a child – is why we do what we do.
What other advice would you give an expectant mom, particularly when it comes to her baby’s wellbeing?
Miranda: Listen to your gut – your mother’s intuition. Every pregnancy is different. If you think something’s wrong, get checked out. If you aren’t sure about something, ask! You aren’t expected to have all of the answers or know what’s normal, so don’t be afraid to speak up. Just like we rush our kids to their pediatrician when they are sick, we need to take that same approach with our unborn babies when we think something’s wrong.
My ultimate goal in sharing this message is to prevent a family from experiencing the pain of a stillbirth. It’s a pain I know all too well, as I lost my twin girls, Annalise and Emmalyn, to stillbirth in 2011. Stillbirth does not discriminate. It was the absolute last thing I ever thought would happen to me.
Losing my girls inspired me to become an advocate for stillbirth prevention. My personal mission is to educate expectant moms about ways to better care for themselves and their unborn babies, so they are less likely to experience the same devastating loss that I did. However, I do know that sometimes we receive news that is unexpected.
It is during these times that I use my certification in perinatal loss care to provide support and care for moms and families that experience miscarriage, stillbirth, neonatal or a life-limiting diagnosis. It’s been my greatest privilege to humbly walk alongside these families during their most difficult days and has given me a way to honor my daughters, while in turn, helping my heart to heal.
What is the greatest concern to the safety of babies during the first year of life?
Sharon: Sleep safety! According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there are approximately 3,500 sleep-related deaths among U.S. babies each year, including sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), sudden unexpected death syndrome (SUDS), accidental suffocation, and deaths from unknown causes. Unintentional suffocation is the leading cause of injury-related death among children under one- year-old.
Recommendations to establish safe sleeping habits for your baby include:
- Babies must sleep alone, on their backs, and in cribs. Period. Your baby should never sleep on sofas, recliners, chairs, soft surfaces, car seats, bouncy chairs or baby swings.
- Babies must sleep in a proper sleep environment. A firm mattress covered with a tight- fitting crib sheet is all a baby needs to sleep safely. When it comes to sleep safety, less is more. Don’t use bumpers, sleep positioners, stuffed animals, pillows, quilts, comforters or other soft bedding.
- Do not let your baby become overheated during sleep. Keep the room temperature comfortable for an adult. Dress baby the same as what you’d wear.
- Keep tobacco and/or e-cigarette smoke away from your sleeping baby. Secondhand smoke
increases the risk for SIDS.
- Consider sharing a room with your baby for at least six months (and up to one year) to further reduce the risk for SIDS. Remember, the safest space for your baby is in a separate sleep space close to your bed – not actually in your bed.
For more information about prenatal and newborn care recommendations, visit mobapbaby.org. If you’ve experienced prenatal or infant loss, please know that you’re not alone. There are support groups and resources available to help you heal and receive the proper bereavement care no matter where you are in the grieving process. Visit nationalshare.org to learn more.