5 tips on preventing stillbirth
Stillbirth is when a baby tragically dies during pregnancy. Technically stillbirth is defined as any foetal death that occurs from 20 weeks pregnant to full term. After 32 weeks, the chance of still birth increases with gestational age. Half of all stillbirths occur at full term. This study provides more stats on the rate of stillbirth.
In the video below, Donna (our midwife) and Claire Foord (CEO of stillaware.org) discuss the simple steps pregnant women can take to reduce the risk of stillbirth. These 5 tips are something all pregnant women should know and understand.
Because we have had three children ourselves, we know the questions and stresses that come with being pregnant and having a baby. In fact, this is the very reason we built Goldilocks, it’s worth checking out. We also have other great tips about birth from our clinicians.
So if there’s any change in strength or any change in the pattern or any change in frequency from what’s normal for your baby, that’s a reason to go in and get checked and not delay getting checked.
Don’t wait until tomorrow, even if you’ve got an appointment the next day. I’m sure you can vouch for that, as well, Donna.
So, it’s crucial that we act now and then the second or fourth thing that we can do, to keep a baby safe is to settle to sleep on our side during pregnancy. It doesn’t actually matter what side.
It’s easy to explain why this works we have a vein. Everyone actually has this vein. Everybody has an Inferior Vena Cava vein that runs down our spine. Now, when we lay on our back, we can imagine a vein is fairly nice, open, and round. But this vein is quite soft and when we lay on our back, it squashes it. And we can restrict the oxygen flow to ourselves and to our baby’s placenta when pregnant.
And so by sleeping on your side, you’re actually leaving that open. So it’s important that we settle to sleep on our side in the third trimester. Again, it doesn’t matter what side.
It also is really important to know that it doesn’t matter if you wake up on your back. So if you find that you’ve moved around in your sleep and you’ve woken up on your back, it’s not a reason to panic, but rather to settle again, back to sleep on your side so that you’re sleeping safely for you and your baby.
The fifth thing and probably the most important thing of all of it is actually trusting yourself and trusting your baby.
So instincts really matter, so if you feel like something’s not right, maybe it isn’t.
Speak to your midwife or clinician and say, I need to come in and get checked. They will always want to, you are your baby’s best advocate. So it’s really important that you let a baby speak through you, in pregnancy to keep your baby safe.
So those five things can help, be protective in pregnancy and help prevent stillbirth from happening to you.
2 tips for the mindset of expecting parents
Not only is there practical ways to prevent stillbirth. But there are also mindsets that new parents can adopt to ensure they are doing the best thing for their baby and themselves. Claire and Donna provide 2 great examples of the type of mindset that helps parents overcome the apprehension a lot of parents face.
It is worth remembering, it is your care and your family. The healthcare system is there to provide that care – that’s their job.
There is one question that, a midwife or clinician needs to ask you and that is how do you feel?
Do you feel like everything has returned to normal?
And if you feel ‘yep, I feel reassured. I feel fine. Everything in me feels good.’
Go, everything’s good.
And the other thing that we encourage people to say is, if there’s any concern, don’t delay.
Even if it’s the same day that you’ve previously presented. Go in and get checked. Because like you said, 24/7, you’re not wasting time, you’re your baby’s best advocate.
You’re talking for them.
How to communicate your concerns to clinicians
Stillbirth isn’t about no movement it is about abnormal movement, whether that’s less or more. Often this is confusing and hard to explain to clinicians.
Donna (our midwife) explains what clinicians are looking for when you ring the hospital about your baby’s movements.
She talks about what movements to look for? How clinicians look for movement and signs of health in the hospital?
But most importantly, they are happy to check as many times as required – you aren’t putting them out.
I guess from that medical perspective. If a clinician said, is your baby moving? And you said ‘Yes’ but maybe the strength is different. So you know the strength is different but there is still some movement.
You’d come into a hospital and I’d go ‘hello, thanks for coming in’. We are open 24/7, we’re always there. And so we would listen to your baby for maybe 20 minutes. And from our perspective, the pattern of heart rate is important.
If you think about it if you’re feeling really unwell and you haven’t got much energy, getting to the fridge to get a glass of water is a lot of effort. And so if your baby’s moving but it’s moving quite weakly, then it hasn’t got that strength for really active movement. And often we’ll see a heart rate that sits quite unchanged.
But if you were feeling really good and you’re like, I’m going to walk up the stairs. Your heart rate comes up and then it comes back down again. And so that’s the pattern of change. We can see your babies getting lots of oxygen and it’s got lots of energy.
We might feel your baby and say, this is where it’s sitting and maybe it’s different to what it has been doing and why it feels different, but that should make sense to you and it’s worth having a check. It’s not a problem. We’re more than happy to do that as many times as needed.
And if you feel that maybe the clinician isn’t giving you as much respect for the feeling that you’ve had, then you know, as the advocating for yourself and your baby. You can say, ‘I don’t feel like things are right’, which is enough reason for us to certainly want to come and check you over and just give you that information so that you can make sense of why it feels different.
Because babies do move in your tummy. They can move to completely different positions and that makes everything feel different. But you shouldn’t know that because that’s a part of our training
Dispelling myths about stillbirth
Stillbirth is spoken about a lot in the media. Unfortunately with fear, comes uncertainty and myths abound.
In this video, Claire and Donna address many of the common myths about stillbirth. They discuss a number of things including: Do babies have quiet times? Does cold water or sugar make a baby more active?
If you’re concerned about your baby’s movements, don’t try and wake them up because you’re concerned. Don’t delay.
Sure, if you want to have a cold drink when you sit down and have your daily bonding session with your baby and your daily playing with your baby, fine. But don’t go and have an orange juice or a cup of ice or a cold drink to try to get your baby moving.
Because like you said, Is ice still ice by the time it gets to your belly? No, so it doesn’t actually make sense.
And in the same way, we must know as well that a baby doesn’t slow down, you know?
It’s like, you’re sitting in a bath for the whole day today because you’re in your third trimester and you’re curled up like this and you really want to kick and punch. You’re still going to kick and punch. Physically you may not be able to swing your arm out so you’re actually moving your whole elbow, your whole body.
So in actual fact, as the pregnancy progresses and the baby gets bigger, the movement should be stronger and the activity should remain the same. The regularity should remain the same. The feeling may be stronger.
The only thing that will differ is the type of movement the baby might make. So early in pregnancy, it might be like a little tickle or flutter and that’s something that only mum can feel. And in mid-pregnancy, closer to the third trimester, but in the second trimester you’ll start to feel those punches and the kicks, and these are movements that dad can feel too and partner can feel as well.
So that’s how they can actively get involved in getting to know their baby. But then in the third trimester. It’s the same you. You actually may even see the baby physically moving in your belly. And the pattern, strength and frequency should be something that is regular for your baby.
So what we do know is that if a baby is unwell that it may move less. That means not as strong, not as often. And then there’s also the other side of it that if it’s unusual for your baby. So if there is, if you feel anything that scares you, that’s frantic movement, a sudden increase in erratic movement that is almost like your baby is wanting to jump out. That’s a reason to also call because it’s different for what’s normal
for your baby.
So it’s really important that we actively get to know who our baby is so that together as mum, baby and clinician, we can know how the baby’s going.
What to say when someone around you experiences a stillbirth?
When a friend experiences a stillbirth, it can become awkward when you don’t know what to say to them. Claire Foord, (CEO of stillaware.org), breaks down what to say when someone experiences stillbirth.
This is a great video on how to celebrate, comfort and console any friend who may have experienced a stillbirth.
I can see there’s lots of information supporting parents that unfortunately have had this happen in their lives. But is there support for people, when your best friend loses their baby and you’re thinking how do I do this?
And I think it’s really interesting because there’s never someone you don’t want to hear from. The worst thing you can do is say nothing. It’s already an incredibly silencing subject as it is. A birthing suite should never be silent, but that’s what your friend has just had to go through delivering their baby in utter agonising silence and it’s never more apparent.
But there’s still so much love in that room. You still have just given birth to a beautiful, beautiful baby, but you’re simultaneously having to welcome that baby into the world and then also say goodbye. It’s very uncomfortable. Because not only are you given a form to sign that says ‘sign here to say that your baby was born’. Then you’re also given a form to say ‘sign here to say that your baby has died’ and it all clashes together at once.
So nobody truly knows what to do and what to say in these scenarios, even the people going through it. But what you can do is just be there and be present and always remember that these children are children. Say their name, say the baby’s name.
It’s different to congratulate them. You’re not going to be able to go out and say, ‘Yay! Congratulations!’ But allow them to share their baby with you if they want to show you photos. Look at them. These photos are actually quite beautiful. They’re just birthing photos. They are babies, they’re perfect and beautiful and gorgeous and these families have every right to want to celebrate their child’s life. And that’s what we’re about is providing a place, a space of celebration rather than a commemoration.
In death, there is so much sadness. But because there was death, there was also life. And so we must always acknowledge that there was a life there. So all a friend can do is literally just be there. And if you already had a gift that you wanted to give to their beautiful daughter or son, then make a choice. But you might actually still want to give it to them and say, ‘look, this does belong to your child. I bought it for them. I want you to have it. It’s up to you what you do with it.’ But it’s really important that if you do, you do it with sensitivity, write cards, write letters, send a text to pick up the phone, but also know if you don’t get a response. The grieving process is long.
And everybody grieves differently. Some people will want to shut away for some time and they will not be responsive to your contact. But it doesn’t mean they don’t want to hear from you. So just remain present but give them space. They’re actually just desperately needing comfort and they desperately need to get out into a busy space so that they don’t feel so isolated. Everybody is different. And everybody deals with grief differently.
Donna: Hello. We’re back here on the couch. And today I have the amazing Claire, the CEO and Founder of Stillaware. Thanks for coming.
Claire: You’re very welcome. Thanks for having me.
Donna: So this is one of those topics that’s really important that we talk about. And certainly, once you hear Claire start to talk, you’ll realise how important it is and probably something that doesn’t always come up as much in conversation or as much as it really should. So maybe you can go through how you founded the amazing Stillaware?
Claire: Sure. Well. I suppose it’s important to understand what Stillaware is all about. So we are an organization that is about stillbirth prevention, we’re an awareness organisation, so we operate purely for that. We focus on all of pregnancy, from the beginning right through to the end. So the nine months is where we fit in. In terms of raising awareness of stillbirth to help prevent it from happening to mums and families. We work very closely with researchers and very closely with support organisations, but our main remit is actually to raise awareness of stillbirth and provide education about stillbirth to therefore bring action and hopefully create change.
We started as a result of being personally affected by it myself. We only exist because no one else was in this space. And that baffles me. Like to no end, I don’t understand why no one has done this prior, because stillbirth is the leading cause of childhood death in Australia and has been so for more than 20 years. So we really have to do something about it.
It’s the time when it can no longer going to be a silent subject. And I understand that the word itself seems uncomfortable ‘stillbirth’ and its something that maybe people have heard of the majority of people may think, ‘Ohh, it’s fixed. It was something that was medieval, it happened in, King Henry VII.’ But unfortunately, it happens every day in Australia. 6 times a day.
When we’re talking stillbirth, that’s the death of a baby in utero prior to birth. And that’s anytime from 20 weeks gestation right through to term. What we’re about is actually preventing those that can be prevented, and that is predominantly third-trimester stillbirths.
You trust in doctors that say ‘we’re confident it’s going to be OK’. But it’s that moment when you realize that you won’t be going home with your child as you should. Every parent that has a child should be leaving the hospital with that child in their arms. And one of the most crucial conversations that we must be having is about stillbirth and stillbirth prevention. So that’s what Stillaware is all about, talking about stillbirth in the antenatal and things that we could do to prevent it. It’s all about being more aware.
Donna: So yes. Is that why you called it still aware?
Claire: Yes. Yeah. Not so much. Stillbirth Support Group. Absolutely. Because it is about being aware, but it’s also not just being aware of Stillbirth. Yes. Yes. So Stillbirth Aware would be fine, but it’s not just about stillbirth, it’s about being still and being aware of your baby. It’s about being still and being aware of your pregnancy. It’s about being still and being aware of how you feel in your pregnancy and your own intuition. So about looking beyond so that we can hopefully prevent that worst outcome of stillbirth from happening to you.
Rachel: The midwives really just added to the information I’d already learned from Stillaware. And then it was just all about following my instincts, not feeling silly if I thought ‘ohh things aren’t right’. You just really have to listen to your baby and know everything’s alright down there. And certainly, go and get it checked out if you think something’s not right.
I went in for my midwife appointment at 39 weeks. And they said, ‘if he’s not out on his due date will induce you’. I noticed he was moving a lot less, which was worrying. So I shared my concerns with the midwife and said, ‘I’m not really sure I want to wait till Monday. It’s just moving less. I’m not sure if everything’s OK down there’. So she said ‘OK, we’ll get you up upstairs and put you on the CTG see what’s happening’.
So went upstairs and they monitored him for a while. It’s heartbeat and everything was fine but the doctor came in with a mobile ultrasound, took a look, and said, ‘there’s not much amniotic fluid there and there’s a lot of baby’. Which surprised me because when the midwives had done their measurements, it was a small baby. So to hear that was a big baby and not much fluid left, sort of explained why he wasn’t moving that much.
And so they said, ‘did you want to wait till Monday? Cause it’s really best to get him out as soon as possible. If you wait till Monday, you might not. You’ve got a lot to lose by waiting till Monday because you might, you might lose him’. So I said ‘ohh yeah, get him out as soon as possible’.
And then I was induced and I was really grateful for that. And the worries were over as soon as he was out and I met him. Yeah, it was just such a relief really, cause I can’t even imagine what poor families go through. They have to. I mean, I always thought it was bad that families had to leave their babies in neonatal care, but I had no idea how many families actually go home without their child at all. So I can’t even imagine what those families go through. So having my arms and healthy was just kind of describe a really it’s just. Yeah, it was perfect.
I felt the midwives were really good that I saw and they took my concerns seriously. And when I went to my childcare education classes towards the end of the pregnancy they actually spoke about Stillaware, which was really good and said please follow your instincts. Don’t feel stupid by coming in or calling if you think something’s not right. I was really pleased with the care and support I got there.
I dread to think what would have happened if I’d waited till Monday if I hadn’t said at the midwife appointment, ‘oh, he is moving a bit less.’ Because I wouldn’t have had a clue about any of that if it wasn’t for Stillaware. I just thought you were pregnant. That was it. And especially after I had a miscarriage at 12 weeks a year before Arlo was born. So it was really just great to finally have a baby in my arms and have followed my instincts and made sure it was OK. Stillaware is an amazing organization, I’ve got nothing but the most respect for them and what they do continually.
[Watch the video for the rest of another case study and how you can support Stillaware.org].
What about once your baby is out?
We are glad you asked, because this is exactly what we do. Goldilocks is a next generation baby monitor that tracks your baby’s feeding, sleep, breathing, skin and core temperature.
But we don’t just track, we also provide insights and advice from clinicians (just like those you have see above) right when you need them.
You can find out more about what we do here.
Disclaimer: This article is for general information only and not intended as a substitute for medical advice. All information provided on this website is not intended to diagnose or prescribe. In all health-related matters we recommend consulting with your local healthcare professional