What You Need To Know About Stillbirth: 4 Mothers Living Through Loss
March 30, 2017 6:46 AM   Subscribe

"In an effort to better understand stillbirth, I spoke with a number of women who've experienced stillbirth, parent advocates, and a representative from a company trying to change the way in which families interact with their stillborn infants. I learned more than I could have imagined."

"Since virtually every new mother in the United States is careful about positioning her baby in sleep due to the risk of SIDS, I feel like that figure bears repeating: More than 10 times as many babies die in the womb between the gestational age of 20 weeks and birth than die from SIDS. And, yet, stillbirth is a loss so often shrouded in silence, existing in some space in between. It's a loss often left with very little space to grieve. And, while the experience of stillbirth is rare, it is not so rare that we can, or should, avoid talking about the risks openly and compassionately. It is not so rare that we should allow families who experience this loss to suffer silently. We can do better to support them, as friends, family, and as medical professionals."
posted by juliplease (10 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
There's increasing evidence that inducing at 39 weeks (particularly for older mothers) reduces the risk of late stillbirth. My hearts go out to these moms. I had to fight to be induced at 40 weeks due to my providers' misplaced ideas about "natural" childbirth. Everything turned out ok, thankfully.
posted by yarly at 7:12 AM on March 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

Later, when I thanked her for the interview, Houston responded by telling me, “It’s genuinely my pleasure. I can do something as [Isaac’s] mom. I don’t get to do that often enough.”

Thank you for linking this piece, juliplease. I'm glad that issues like this do get talked about more often nowadays.
posted by threetwentytwo at 7:17 AM on March 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

I was worried that this would be mawkish, and it wasn't. thanks for posting.
posted by theora55 at 7:37 AM on March 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:00 AM on March 30, 2017

One language matter that I wish, as a society, we could excise is the common construct used to describe stillbirths and miscarriages: "She lost the baby." It's so cruel, as well as being inaccurate, to routinely use an expression that assigns blame to the mothers. So many of these mothers already torture themselves wondering whether they should have intuited that something was wrong, been more aggressive with medical caregivers or behaved differently earlier in the pregnancy. While I'm sure there are cases when maternal negligence is to blame, in the vast vast majority of situations, no one is at fault for the tragic outcomes. I wish we would come up with a different default expression or even just say it plainly: The baby died at birth/following X weeks of gestation.
posted by carmicha at 8:09 AM on March 30, 2017 [13 favorites]

A tough read. Not that I would have expected anything different, given the subject matter.

I was pregnant with twins 11 years ago. At the 20-week check-up, it became clear that one of them wasn't growing as fast or well as the other one, and at 31 weeks, she had run out of amniotic fluid and we had to do a c-section. I was so damn scared. My story has a happy ending - they both turned out happy, healthy, smart and amazing - and words cannot describe how grateful I am for that. But I know how close it was, and I think about that sometimes. If I hadn't been pregnant with twins and under such close observation, I don't know how it would have gone. Fleetwood Mac's rerelease of Landslide was popular at that time, and it played constantly on the radio in the NICU, where I spent 5 weeks, giving my babies as much touch and love and care as I possibly could. To this day, I tear up when I hear Landslide, because it reminds me of how deeply scared I was - terrified that my little one wouldn't make it, then afraid that they would have permanent impact from being born so early. I do not exaggerate when I say that I count my blessings and give thanks for my kids every single day.

I cannot imagine worse pain than the death of a child, including a death in utero. All your dreams, your hopes, your love, your best intentions, your hard work, your sacred motherhood - lost or changed forever. My heart physically aches for anyone who has had to go through this. Hugs and love to you all.
posted by widdershins at 8:59 AM on March 30, 2017 [9 favorites]

I was amazed at that CuddleCot device...I did not know that existed, or that parents would be allowed to take their baby home for so long before the funeral...one testimonial stated 7 days at home before the funeral. I imagine that another tough aspect of saying goodbye might be judgment from family and friends who might not understand the individual grieving process.
posted by agregoli at 9:02 AM on March 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

My older brother died of SIDS before I was born. It happened at the babysitter’s after my mother had to go back to work. When she got to the hospital, she just caught a glimpse of his body from the other end of the corridor - they wouldn't let her go in the room with him or touch him or say goodbye because this was the Dark Ages and she was just a hysterical female and we big important doctors know what's best for you, dear.

There's this little part of her that's never been able to fully processed that he's gone. I can just begin to imagine how much comfort the cuddle cot and being able to spend so much time together brings to the grieving parents in the article.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:48 AM on March 30, 2017 [4 favorites]

Thanks for sharing this. The cuddle cots are amazing. I am a midwife and have worked a bit on improving my hospital's services for families experiencing stillbirth. Most hospitals are pretty abysmal at it, honestly, and we all have a long way to go. I am, of course, too aware of the risk of stillbirth and am still overjoyed with every healthy baby I catch, because birth and safe delivery are miraculous. I also cry with every stillbirth and my heart still aches for families from years and years ago.

I did notice that a couple of the patients in the article were doing homebirth. I don't want to hijack this and turn it into a political discussion (and am certainly not blaming any patients in this article, or any patient ever), but I would be curious to know if they were being managed by lay midwives or certified nurse-midwives, and the education that these families received around risks. I am aware that lots of low-risk women in the US deliver safely at home (I have many friends who have done this) but I have also known of cases of poorly managed deliveries by lay midwives at home that ended in stillbirth in the hospital, which is tragic and entirely preventable. I also am aware that for some women, the desire to avoid intervention at all cost can lead them to delay care that can be life-saving. This is of course a patient's right, and again, I would NEVER place the blame on a patient, but I think it is a sad function and failure of modern obstetrics to: a) provide adequate teaching and informed consent; b) permit over litigiousness of medicine, especially obstetrics; and c) to permit the practice of obstetrics to fall so far into fear-based intervention and away from evidence-based practice.

My heart goes out to all of these families, and to any family who has experienced a stillbirth. It is a crushing devastation.
posted by stillmoving at 12:15 PM on March 30, 2017 [6 favorites]

I cannot imagine worse pain than the death of a child, including a death in utero. All your dreams, your hopes, your love, your best intentions, your hard work, your sacred motherhood - lost or changed forever. My heart physically aches for anyone who has had to go through this. Hugs and love to you all.

All this and so much more.

One of my two best friends had a stillbirth due to a prolapsed cord after her water broke. 10 days later my baby boy died after 100 days in the NICU. It was beyond painful. It will be three years this April. Thanks for the hugs.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 11:12 PM on March 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

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