As a former victim advocate, I feel the need to educate the public on this issue as it affects approximately 1 in 160 pregnancies according to the March of Dimes. This is higher than the incidence of many chromosomal abnormalities and birth defects. A stillbirth is categorized as any fetal death occurring after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Some of the causes of stillbirth vary, including birth defects, placental problems, poor fetal growth, infections, chronic health conditions in the pregnant woman, and umbilical cord accidents (which only occur in 2-4% of stillbirths).
Most women who experience a stillborn loss didn't have advanced testing in their pregnancy that could show something was wrong before it happened. This is why it's extremely important for all pregnant women to do kick counts starting at 24 weeks of pregnancy. This was not the case with us.
I started having non stress tests at 31 weeks (a little early) due to decreased baby movement. The very first test showed Everett's heart rate was not performing up to standards. A baby's heart rate in utero is supposed to fluctuate up to 15 beats above base line and back down and variate like this back and forth. During the majority of my non-stress tests Everett's heart would just stay at base line with some variation at times, but not up to the standards of the test. I ended up being in and out of the hospital a total of 8 times those last few weeks all with the same issues. I was admitted for a three day stay at 33.5 weeks with constant monitoring and injected with steroids to help develop Everett's lungs in case of an early delivery. I was sent home. Finally my OB stated I needed to be delivered and sent me to a high risk Dr. for a consult who stated our son's lungs weren't developed, without really knowing or checking, and that I shouldn't be delivered. I argued with her that I was very concerned about Everett and wasn't worried about the lung development issue, I just felt I needed to be delivered. More monitoring ensued, still unsatisfactory and getting worse, and I was again sent back to the high risk Dr. She finally agreed to do an amniocentesis to check lung maturity. Our results came back the best they had ever seen on August 10, 2010. I was finally going to be delivered. We were sent to check in at 5:30pm to the hospital that evening. I had a large movement in the lobby of the hospital. When we got up to my room the nurse put the Doppler on my belly and could not find a heart beat. She tried so hard to locate one and stay positive. I knew something was terribly wrong. My OB was called in and three ultrasounds later it was confirmed that Everett's heart was no longer beating. Words cannot describe the heart break and devastation we felt, and continue to feel.
In all the ultrasounds that we had, and there were a lot, it was never mentioned that our son's cord was wrapped around his neck, however this issue typically happens in 30% of all pregnancies and doesn't cause an issue. Research shows that a cord around the neck can be seen through ultrasound, but a cord knot can be obscured depending on where it is located on the cord. Research also shows that some stillbirths can be prevented. A lot of education still needs to be done within the medical community and public. A stillborn tragedy can happen to anyone!
Please stay tuned to future posts and updates on the progress of the race. We hope to have a date and location confirmed in the next few weeks.