Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness
The loss of a child through pregnancy or in early infancy is a devastating reality for thousands of families across the globe. These tragic losses can represent some of the most painful experiences in a parent’s life. This unique grief is often not acknowledged, and many people are not aware of how to offer support. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan coined October as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. This month recognizes the unique sorrow of grieving parents and offers support for bereaved families. October 15th has been demarcated as World Pregnancy and Infant Loss and Awareness Day, created by the tireless advocacy of bereaved parents. At 7PM, candles are lit in memory of their beloved children.
What is a miscarriage?
A miscarriage is the loss of a baby in the womb before 20 weeks of pregnancy. It is estimated that 15-25% of pregnancies end in miscarriage. The vast majority of miscarriages occur during the first trimester, while 1-5% of miscarriages occur in the second trimester. The cause of pregnancy loss before 20 weeks is often unknown. However, chromosomal abnormalities have been found to cause greater than 50% of miscarriages. Other causes of miscarriage include infection, fibroids, cervical insufficiency, and uterine anomalies.
What is a stillbirth?
Stillbirth is the loss of a baby in the womb after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Stillbirth occurs in 13.9/1000 pregnancies worldwide. 1 in 3 causes of stillbirth are unknown. Other causes of stillbirth include birth defects, infection, placental or uterine abnormalities, and high blood pressure, diabetes, etc. Of note, significant inequities in childbirth appear across the globe, with risks that are over 20 times higher in worse affected countries (India, Nigeria, Pakistan, China, Ethiopia, and Democratic Republic of Congo).
What is infant loss?
Infant loss is the death of a child from birth to a year old. The main causes of infant loss include complications from premature birth, birth defects, injury/trauma, infection, and SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). In 2018, 4 million infants died worldwide. While the infant mortality rate has declined significantly over the last 30 years, there is still much work to be done internationally.
What Can Be Done?
Suggestions to reduce these devastating statistics include:
- increased advocacy and awareness surrounding this serious public health issue
- Increased access to adequate prenatal care and emergency obstetric services
- Data-driven research on the various etiologies of pregnancy and infant loss
How to Offer Support
The loss of a pregnancy or infant can have a traumatic impact on women and their families globally, who often endure profound psychological suffering as well as stigma from their communities. This is also the case in high-income countries. Ways to offer support to bereaved families include:
- Obtain resources from March of Dimes, Unicef, Star Legacy Foundation, among several other organizations that champion this cause and offer abundant support
- Join a supportive space to share your story and connect with others. Visit share.marchofdimes.org/
- Participate on October 15th by lighting a candle for one hour at 7PM local time to commemorate the life of a beloved child
- Perform an act of kindness in memory of a baby lost too soon. Printable cards from Star Legacy Foundation are found here: https://starlegacyfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/RandomActOfKindness2018_FullPage.pdf
- Share the #NeverBeStill hashtag on social media to break the silence surrounding pregnancy and infant loss. You can also change your social media profile frame.
- Send a letter to your elected representatives encouraging them to support policies designed to prevent poor obstetric and pediatric outcomes as well as resources to support families