What can we do about it?
One of the biggest things to do is raise public awareness that stillbirth still happens. It isn’t something that sometimes “just happens” or that “we can’t do anything about”. Pregnant mums can actually take active and effective steps to keep their baby safe. One way to do this is to get to know their baby through fetal movement.
There are two big myths about fetal movement that I would like to debunk.
Myth 1: Babies move less close to birth because they run out of room
It is NOT normal for the baby to move less close to birth, the movements should be just as strong and just as often right up to the birth. In fact studies have shown over and over again that if the baby starts to move less, then this is a very ominous sign indeed. So mums who notice their baby moving less should immediately see their care provider, who should respond to her concerns by assessing the baby’s wellbeing.
Myth 2: If the baby is moving less a good way to perk it up is to drink a cold (sugary) drink
If you think about this for a minute, this myth actually makes no sense AND the Australian and New Zealand stillbirth alliance guidelines specifically say this is not evidence based information.
Let’s ask ourselves… Why would drinking a cold drink make the fetus move more? Perhaps…and it’s a big perhaps, when the cold water hits the mother’s stomach it causes her stomach to rumble and that noise wakes the baby up? Maybe, if you drink something sugary it causes a burst of glucose in the mother’s blood stream and the glucose will give the baby more energy? !! That makes slightly more sense BUT even IF either of these things did temporarily wake the baby up, why would anyone think that this means that the baby was now well?
As I said in my “enough is enough” blog below. Imagine that a mother of a toddler noticed that he was spending the day lying down on the sofa, she was concerned and rang her doctor and the doctor told her, “sit down with him, bang a drum next to him and give him a drink of green cordial, that should wake him up! Ring me back if you are still concerned”! Imagine what the coroner would say if that baby subsequently died. Yet this is essentially the advice that pregnant women are hearing from their family and friends as well as many care providers every day.
The really telling point here is this: Even IF doing this wakes the baby up and causes them to kick, it makes no sense that anyone would then think that everything was ok and that that baby’s change in behaviour didn’t warrant further investigation. Thinking back to our toddler, even if the drum woke him up or the green cordial made him get up and run around for a few minutes the underlying reason for his listless behaviour is still there and when the green cordial wears off he may still be quite sick!
So if you are currently pregnant and you want to keep your baby safe, immediately report any changes in your unborn baby’s behaviour to your care provider and don’t waste precious time drinking cold sugary drinks.
Hopefully this information is read and acted upon by the women who need to hear it to protect their unborn baby, so we can all enjoy Christmas with, rather than mourning for, our precious babies.