Parents Set Aside Time To Remember Pregnancy Loss October 15
Clair Baca, one of the founders of the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness movement, said “There is no greater tragedy in life than the loss of a child.” October 15th of each year has been set aside as a day of remembrance and support for parents who have experienced such as loss.
Pregnancy Loss is Under-researched and Under-prioritized
President Ronald Reagan designated the month of October as “Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month” in 1988. In 2002, after a movement by Robyn Bear, Lisa Brown and Tammy Novak, the 15th of each October was declared by gubernatorial proclamation in 20 states to be recognized as “Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day.” Today, all 50 states have yearly proclamations.
According to the 2005 National Vital Statistics Report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the latest data shows that the fetal mortality rate in the United States is declining, yet still occurs in about 1 million pregnancies each year (15.6%). The March of Dimes reports that infant mortality rate, or the number of infants who die before their first birthday, is now 6.7 per 1,000 live births.
The majority of pregnancy losses occur before 20 weeks of gestation – called a miscarriage – and most causes are never identified. It is usually assumed that the losses are genetic, where chromosomes simply did not replicate correctly. Other possible reasons for miscarriage include hormonal problems such as low progesterone or an untreated thyroid disorder, problems with the uterus or cervix, immune disorders, and severe infections (ie syphilis, malaria, or toxoplasmosis).
Age increases the risk of miscarriage, particularly for women over the age of 40, as do health problems such as diabetes and heart disease.
A stillbirth occurs when the fetus has reached 20 weeks of gestation or more. The most common causes are uterine abnormalities, an umbilical cord accident, infections of the lining of the gestational sac or cord and placental abruptions. Repeat stillbirths are extremely rare, particularly if the cause is found and treated.
Dr. Alexander Heazell has written a personal account of his son’s stillbirth in the most recent edition of BMJ called “Time to end the silence surrounding stillbirth.” He notes that while in the United Kingdom there is an average of 10 stillbirths a day, neonatal death is still “under-researched and under-prioritized” due in part to the reluctance of professionals and parents to deal with stillbirth openly.
Dr. Heazell writes, “Thirty years ago, no one talked about cancer. Today the diagnosis and treatment of cancers is improving all the time. If parents are brave enough to speak, and doctors, midwives and policy makers courageous enough to listen to them, then the barriers to reducing the number of these deaths can be overcome. In time stillbirth, like cancer, will no longer be taboo, but a condition that’s openly debated, researched, treated, and prevented.”
This October 15th, if you have suffered pregnancy or infant loss, light a candle from 7pm to 8pm to participate in the International Wave of Light. Communities may also be holding a public candle lighting or walk in your area – information can be found at www.october15th.com.