By Emily Price, Chief Executive Officer, Healthy Birth Day, Inc.
The urgency to prevent stillbirth in the U.S. has mounted in the U.S. as more evidence is released showing the devastating impact of COVID-19 on pregnancies. Even before the pandemic, more babies were stillborn in the U.S. every year (23,500) than the number of deaths among children ages 0 to14 years from preterm birth (3,679), sudden infant death syndrome (1,334), accidents (1,208), drownings (689), guns (305), fire (291), and flu (142) combined. Our organization, Healthy Birth Day, Inc., is working to raise awareness in Congress about the devastating impact of stillbirth in your state.
In recognition of the stillbirth crisis, Congress, with efforts led by Congresswomen Alma Adams (D-NC) and Ashley Hinson (R-IA), and Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR), declared Monday, September 19, 2022, as National Stillbirth Prevention Day. During this same week, a team of 21 advocates from stillbirth prevention organizations across the U.S. spent three days in our nation’s capital to continue efforts to educate members of Congress about the stillbirth crisis in America, and to thank members who are leading efforts to combat stillbirth. On October 15, 2022, which is designated as International Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, hundreds of stillbirth prevention advocates converged on the National Mall, pushing empty strollers to raise awareness about the thousands of babies who don’t come home from the hospital each year.
The Mission of Healthy Birth Day and What the Proposed Legislation Can Help Accomplish
Healthy Birth Day, Inc., was founded by five mothers who lost their babies to stillbirth or infant death. The organization is the primary stakeholder on an important piece of stillbirth prevention legislation, the Maternal and Child Stillbirth Prevention Act of 2022 (S.3797 and H.R.7011), which would name stillbirth and stillbirth prevention in Title V statute, the federal law that authorizes the Maternal & Child Health Services Block Grant.
To date, the Maternal and Child Health Stillbirth Prevention Act legislation is gaining rapid bipartisan momentum as more United States senators and representatives sign on to sponsor the legislation. We must keep the momentum going to ensure that the 117th Congress passes this legislation.
We want to thank AMCHP for endorsing this legislation, which recognizes that stillbirth calls for additional evidence-based programs and activities and outcomes research to reduce the incidence of stillbirth. Vital to reducing stillbirths are the following types of programs/activities and research:
- Tracking and awareness of fetal movements through monitoring practices, such as Count the Kicks, which is an AMCHP Innovation Hub best practice
- Improvement of birth timing for pregnant people with risk factors
- Initiatives that encourage safe sleeping positions for pregnant people
- Screening and surveillance for fetal growth restriction
- Efforts to achieve smoking cessation among pregnant people
- Community-based programs that provide home visits or other types of support
- All other research or evidence-based programming to prevent stillbirths.
Stillbirths occur in all races, ethnicities, income levels, and to women of all ages. Unacceptable longstanding and persistent racial and ethnic disparities occur, and Black and Native American families experience stillbirths at two times the rate of their white counterparts.
According to a recent study, a minimum of 1 in 4 stillbirths are preventable, and the United States is trailing the progress of other countries. Research also shows that a link exists between stillbirth and maternal mortality and morbidity. In fact, the risk of severe maternal morbidity is four to five times higher among stillbirth deliveries than live births. Efforts to reduce stillbirth could also improve health outcomes for moms. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists a change in a baby’s movements as one of its 15 urgent maternal warning signs. This white paper shows the connection between stillbirth and maternal mortality and proves that stillbirth prevention efforts can also help detect and identify potential life-threatening complications for moms.
Additional endorsing organizations for this legislation include the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, March of Dimes, and the Maternal Mental Health Leadership Alliance. These babies and their stories are living proof that stillbirth prevention efforts do work and Congress needs to do more to solve this crisis. Tools and resources are available to prevent preventable stillbirth. Thank you for all you do, your work is vital in saving lives.
Emily Price is the CEO of Healthy Birth Day, Inc., and oversees the national expansion of the evidence-based Count the Kicks public health campaign that educates and empowers expectant parents to track their babies’ movements in the third trimester of pregnancy. The proven stillbirth prevention campaign helped lower Iowa’s stillbirth rate by 1 percent every three months for a decade, and within that, helped lower the stillbirth rate among African American women in Iowa by a promising 39 percent in the first five years. This major reduction happened while the rest of the country remained relatively stagnant. Price leads the vision of the campaign — with an overall goal of realizing a 32 percent stillbirth rate reduction in all 50 states, which would save 7,500 babies every year in the U.S.