Simple way this baby’s life was saved
EMILY Eekoff believes an app, combined with a little vigilance, saved her daughter Ruby's life.
Ms Eekoff, from Iowa in the US, was in her third trimester of pregnancy last year and had started monitoring her baby's movements through an app called Count the Kicks.
She had become used to tracking Ruby's movements and knew she normally kicked 10 times in under 10 minutes. So when she only logged three kicks in an hour, she knew something was wrong and rushed to hospital.
"The kicks were not happening as frequently as they usually did and when she did move it was really soft, subtle, not hard kicks like normal," Ms Eekoff told Good Morning America.
Doctors soon realised the umbilical cord had wrapped around Ruby three times, limiting her movement. Ms Eekoff was rushed to surgery for an emergency C-section and now, Ruby is alive and well.
"We have a healthy baby girl and we could have had a burial instead," Ms Eekoff said.
The creator of Count The Kicks, American politician Janet Petersen, believes her app has saved hundreds of lives.
Ms Petersen lost a stillborn baby girl in 2003 while serving in the Iowa House of Representatives.
Since then, she has worked hard to reduce her state's stillbirth rate and is encouraging other countries, including Australia, to implement similar initiatives to minimise stillbirth deaths. In Australia about six stillborn babies are born everyday, or around 2000 a year.
"We've seen an overall decrease in 26 per cent since the campaign began. We would be honoured to help you save babies in Australia," Ms Petersen wrote in her submission to Australia's senate select committee inquiry, which is currently seeking public input on the future of stillbirth research and education.
"If Australia achieved the same success in saving babies as we have … your country could save more than 569 babies every year," Ms Petersen wrote.
While the cause of many stillbirths is unknown, the thinking behind Count The Kicks is based around sound medical evidence that early intervention can prevent a stillbirth.
"When mums know what is normal for their baby, then they are more alert to potential red flags. We frequently hear from mums whose babies were saved because they noticed a change in their baby's movement pattern and alerted their healthcare provider," Count the Kicks' executive director Emily Price told news.com.au.
Sydney woman Gillian Graham-Crowe and her husband Gavin Youngman believe better education about monitoring movements might have saved their baby's life. The couple's daughter Layla was stillborn in 2011.
When she was three days overdue, Ms Graham-Crowe said she felt Layla's movements decrease and become weaker.
"As I lay in bed, I remember feeling a soft kick around the time I drifted off to sleep. However, my baby's movement in-utero had evidently reduced," she wrote in her senate inquiry submission. "I did not know at the time that this is something I should have been concerned about. It was never raised with me - by doctors, nor at our birth class.
"If I was told about the risk of slowing movements. I would not have waited as long to present at hospital. I am an aware, highly educated, professional women, but did not know or understand the risks."
Ms Graham-Crowe's submission reveals the heartbreaking experience stillbirth parents go through when saying goodbye to their babies.
"We spent two days with Layla in hospital. The midwives brought her to us a couple of times a day and we dressed her, cuddled her, talked to her, kissed her a million times over," she wrote.
"We spent a very short time making a lifetime of memories. Each time, we had to send her back to the cold room before we were ready to let go.
"We tucked her little ears up in her knitted green and pink beanie, so they didn't get cold. We wanted to be the best mum and dad we could be for her. Then, all of a sudden, it was time to say our final goodbye. I don't like to recall that moment to any great level of details, because it physically hurts my heart. Post mortem testing confirmed, officially, that there was no known cause of death."
Stillbirth Centre for Research Excellence director Professor Vicki Flenady says greater awareness is needed to educate mothers about what to do during their pregnancies.
"We need to make sure that any change in their baby's movement is reported and that they don't delay this," Professor Flenady told news.com.au.
"At the moment about 40 per cent of women who have decreased foetal movement wait longer than 24 hours to call their healthcare provider. They could be missing a window of opportunity to detect abnormalities.
"Also, when a woman does contact her healthcare provider, it's important that she is given an appropriate response."
Other risk factors such as sleeping position, an unhealthy diet, smoking, drinking alcohol and a lack of exercise also need to be avoided.
"There is increasing evidence that sleeping on your back is not a good thing, so we should be encouraging women to sleep on their sides"
But the most important factor, Prof Flenady says, is to ensure families of stillborn babies aren't ashamed to share their stories.
"What is hidden can't be fixed," she said. "We really must make a huge effort to break down that stigma."
If you are looking for more information about stillbirths visit The Stillbirth Foundation or Sands, an organisation supporting those experiencing miscarriages, stillbirths and newborn deaths. Sands has a 24 hour support line on 1300 072 637.
You can make a public submission to the Senate's stillbirth inquiry online. Submissions close on June 29.
If you'd like to share your stillbirth story with news.com.au, email firstname.lastname@example.org.