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October is Infant and Pregnancy Loss Awareness Month

Sunday September 23, 2012

In 2006, the first National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Memorial Day was celebrated on October 15.  This year will mark the 6th anniversary of that event, but there are events going on all over the United States and the World throughout the month of October.

If you want to get involved, you can visit the official site for the National Memorial Day.  There's still time to join up with a an already planned event, or start one of your own.

Even if you don't want to recognize the day in a public capacity, there are plenty of ways to spend a special occasion like thing privately.  Whether you spend the day with your signficant other, visit your baby's grave, or throw a joyful party, there's sure to be something wonderful you can do to honor your baby's memory.

One of the simplest ways is to light a candle at 7pm your local time to be a part of the worldwide wave of light to honor the memory of baby's lost all over the planet.

If you've learned of a special event and want to share it with other readers, please feel free to do so in the comments.

Some Helpful Resources for Planning a Memorial Event:
How to Find Awareness Events in Your Area
A Collection of Quotes About Loss
Celebrating Your Baby's Birthday
10 Unique Ways to Honor Your Baby's Memory

Photo © Art Montes De Oca / Getty Images

September is National Infant Mortality Awareness Month

Monday September 17, 2012

September is National Infant Mortality Awareness Month, sponsored in partnership by a host of organizations, including:

  • Office of Minority Health
  • National Health Start Association
  • March of Dimes
  • Baltimore City Healthy Start
  • National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Administration for Children and Families
  • Indian Health Service
  • Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs
  • National Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Coalition

This year's theme is "A Healthy Baby Begins With You and You and You."

There are plenty of opportunities to get involved, from sharing a story about how you're working to prevent infant mortality at National Healthy Start Association's website.  There, you can also enter to win a one-year of baby supplies from Johnson & Johnson just for signing up for Text4Baby.

Learn More About Infant Mortality:
What Is Infant Mortality?
What Is Perinatal Mortality?
Why Do Black Women Have More Pregnancy Losses?

Badge Courtesy of National Healthy Start Association

Lesbian Mom's Name Removed from Death Certificate in Iowa

Sunday September 16, 2012

In February of this year, an Iowa same-sex couple filed a lawsuit against the Iowa Department of Public Health after Jenny, the non-gestational mother's name from the death certificate of the couple's stillborn son, Brayden.  By state law in Iowa, a married couple is named on a birth or death certificate, regardless of biological parenthood.  But after the tragic death of Jenny and Jessica Buntemeyer's son in 2011, their grief was made even sharper by the blatant removal of Jenny's name from the death certificate which arrived at their home in January of this year.

As any grieving parent knows, the last thing you need when you've just experienced such a devastating loss is complications and judgement.  With so little to remember a stillborn baby by, something concrete, like a death certificate can take on extra significance.  A document tying a child to his parents.

For same sex couples, there are already tremendous challenges to becoming parents, both biological and social.  It can be difficult to families to find social support with healthy, full-term children, much less with pregnancy loss.  Imagine the frustration and anger a mother must feel being told she does not have any claim to her child.

Lambda Legal has started a petition asking the Iowa Department of Public Health to restore Jenny Buntemeyer's name to her son's death certificate.  If you wish to sign it, follow this link.

For More Information about Grief for Same Sex Couples, see here:
Same Sex Couples and Pregnancy Loss
Pregnancy Loss from the Perspective of Lesbian and Bisexual Moms

Higher Stillbirth Rate for South Asians in Australia

Saturday September 15, 2012

In January, I reported on the increased risks of diabetes for South Asian women.  Now, a new study out of Australia reveals an increased risk of stillbirth for South Asian women.

The study, based in three Melbourne hospitals focused on women giving birth in Australia, but compared the rates of stillbirth for Australian-born women with those of women born in South Asian countries (India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Bangladesh).  Over a period of ten years, South Asian-born women were found to have a 2.4 times higher rate ofstillbirth than Australian-born women, and a 3.4 time higher risk than women born in East and Southeast Asia.

Researchers remain puzzled as to the reason for the disparity, though there is also a significant increase in low birth weight infants in the same population.  Low birth weight is a known risk factor for stillbirth.

One of the study's authors, Professor Euan Wallace, also speculated that South Asian women may need to be induced earlier in pregnancy to reduce the risk.  He suggests that women may not have the same gestation period across all populations.

More Reading on Stillbirth:
Treatment of Stillbirth
Causes of Stillbirth
Emotional Recovery from Stillbirth

Photo © Michael Skoglund / Getty Images

Is Recurrent Miscarriage Actually Super Fertility?

Monday September 10, 2012

Uterus IllustrationIn a remarkable new study, a multi-national team of scientists may have found a break-through in the causes of recurrent miscarriage.  The conclusions, published in PLOS One Journal, may surprise you.  In a lab study of women's endometrial cells (the cells lining the uterus), the cells from women who had recurrent miscarriages were more likely to grow toward low-quality embryos as well as high-quality embryos.  Endometrial cells from women without recurrent miscarriage only grew toward the high-quality embryos.

What does that mean?  It indicates that women who have multiple miscarriages may actually get pregnant more easily than other women, or rather, their uterine linings allow implantation of fertilized eggs that may not be suitable for full-term pregnancy.  In women with average fertility, these fertilized eggs would mostly likely be shed as part of a normal menstrual cycle.

The implications are remarkable.  Perhaps women who experience recurrent miscarriage in fact have a abnormality in their uterine cells.  This presents a new avenue for research that could not only could it lead to a diagnostic test, but potentially to a new treatment.

Unfortunately, this was a small scale study involving only 12 women.  However, it was an empirical laboratory study, without the usual variables in patient studies.  Hopefully, more researchers will be able to repeat this study and confirm the findings.

What's the take away message for readers?  If you have a history of recurrent miscarriage without any known cause, it may not be time to give up hope of ever understanding the reasons.  Although a treatment is still years away, it may at least by comforting to know there is a real cause at work in many of these cases.

Suggested Reading:
10 Questions to Ask Your Doctor After Pregnancy Loss
Medical Evaluation for Recurrent Miscarriage
Known Causes of Recurrent Miscarriage

New Down Syndrome Test with Lower Risk for Miscarriage

Tuesday September 4, 2012

Currently, pregnant women are offered a screen test for Down Syndrome during the first trimester of pregnancy.  Although the test, the nuchal fold or nuchal translucency test, is a simple ultrasound, it does have a relatively high false positive rate.  A woman whose nuchal fold test indicates a risk for Down Syndrome is offered either an amniocentesis or chorionic villi sampling, which involve inserting a needle into the uterus.  There is a risk of miscarriage associated with both of these invasive tests.

However, according to this article, researchers from London have developed a new blood test with a much higher sensitivity than the nuchal fold test.  With the new test, only one in every 1,000 women tested is likely to be offered a more invasive test like an amnio or a CVS.  In comparison, as many as 50 women out of 1,000 are candidates for amnio or CVS after nuchal fold testing.

Not only are families more likely to get more accurate results for Down Syndrome risk, they are much less likely to require an unnecessary invasive test that could cause miscarriage.

So far the test is being offered in one chain of US clinics at a cost of $700.

Learn More About Miscarriage Risk:
A Reality Check for Common Miscarriage Claims
Miscarriage Rates by Common Risk Factors
Does Stress Cause Miscarriage?

Photo © Lester Lefkowitz / Getty Images

September Awareness Days

Monday September 3, 2012

Once again, I'd like to bring you a list of all the non-profit organizations raising awareness this month.  It seems like the calendar is particularly busy with awareness days and weeks in the month of September!  As ever, I'll only list the organizations I think are most relevant to my readers, but you can find a complete list of September (and any other month's) designated days at this website.

First the Produce for Better Health Foundation brings us Fruits and Veggies - More Matters Month to encourage all of us to increase the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables in our diets.  The Whole Grain Council also brings us Whole Grains Month in September.  There is so much evidence that a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can improve our overall health and reduce the risk of so many complications of pregnancy.  There is even evidence that this type of diet may reduce your chances of anencephaly.

It's also National Sickle Cell Month, sponsored by the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America.  Sickle Cell is a rare disease affecting African Americans, with known risks of Intrauterine Growth Restriction (IUGR) which is a known risk factor for many kinds of pregnancy loss.

Next, the Save Babies Through Screening Foundation brings us Newborn Screening Awareness Month, encouraging all parents to have their babies screened for a series of treatable diseases which could otherwise be debilitating or even fatal.

September 27th is RAINN Day, raising awareness and support for victims of rape, incest, and abuse.  Although it may not seem immediately evident why RAINN Day is relevant to the readers of a pregnancy loss site, remember that some pregnancies are the result of rape, incest, or sexual abuse.  Further, these issues are another sensitive topic that affects women, and we can all support improved awareness and prevention efforts.

Photo © Robin Atkins

Neonatal Death Linked with Obesity in Sub-Saharan Africa

Monday August 27, 2012

Obesity is a growing problem in sub-Saharan Africa.  This region of the world is already host to one of the highest infant-mortality rates in the world, and now the increasing rates of obesity have been linked to an even greater risk of neonatal death.

According to a new study published in The Lancet, researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine analyzed over 81,000 singleton pregnancies from 27 countries in sub-Saharan Africa from 2003 to 2009 compared to the mother's body mass index (BMI).

In the study, an obese mother had nearly a 50% greater chance of her baby dying in the first 4 weeks of life, with the highest risk in the first 2 days of life (62% greater risk for obese women and 32% higher for overweight women as compared to women of optimum weight). The increased risks held, even when the researchers adjusted for known risk factors like maternal age, educational level, and birth order.

We already know obesity poses a risk in affluent countries.  Unfortunately, the risks seem even greater in these developing nations.  Estimates suggest that as many as 25% of adults in sub-Saharan Africa will be obese by 2030. Health care workers in the areas must be aware of the increased risk to new obese mothers--a phenomenon that is very new to the region.

If obesity rates continue to rise worldwide, many of our efforts to decrease risk of stillbirth could be negated.

More on Obesity:
Obesity as a Risk Factor for Miscarriage
Pregnancy Fitness and Exercise
Nutritional Tips During Pregnancy

Photo © Natalie Behring/Getty Images

Air Pollution Linked to Stillbirth in New Study

Wednesday August 22, 2012

A New Jersey based study from the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School compared estimated daily concentrations of various air pollutants with risk of stillbirth.  The study covered delivery information from 1998 to 2004, and concerned only mothers who lived within 10 kilometers of New Jersey's 25 pollution monitoring stations.  The abstract is available through the on-line version of the American Journal of Epidemiology, and the full text can be viewed with a subscription.

Using all the data, the researchers were able to find several trends.  Some pollutants, like nitrogen dioxide, can be harmful during any part of pregnancy.  In women who were exposed to a 10-parts per billion increase in nitrogen dioxide were 27 times more likely to have a stillbirth.  Other pollutants appeared more harmful only at certain times in pregnancy, such as sulfur dioxide. Risk of stillbirth increased 13 percent for every 3-parts per billion increase of sulfur dioxide during the trimester, and 26 percent for every 3-parts per billion increase in the third trimester. Carbon monoxide appeared most dangerous during the second and third trimesters. At a 400-parts per billion increase in concentration, CO2 was associated with a 14 percent increased risk of stillbirth.

Due to limitations of the study, the research team could not say if less pollution would lead to a lower overall stillbirth rate.  More study will be necessary to see how strong the link truly is, and analyze the effects in other populations as well.  They were also unable to speculate about why exactly air pollution is dangerous to a fetus when it would seem most detrimental to a woman's lungs.

The study authors also reminded readers that the easiest way to eliminate exposure to these kinds of air pollutants is for women to avoid exposure to cigarette smoke.

The takeaway message for women is one of caution.  It's not always easy to control your environment, particularly if you travel.  Remember, this study isn't conclusive, so it's not realistic or practical to attempt avoiding all air pollutants.  However, there are a few things you should know:

  • If you smoke, quitting will reduce the risk of many complications for you and your baby.
  • If you're around people who smoke, consider asking them to keep their smoking to a specific area that you can avoid.
  • If you live in an area known to have high levels of air pollution, you should be alert to any signs of possible stillbirth.  Do your fetal movement counts and don't hesitate to call your doctor if you have any concerns.

Photo © Adam Jackson

August 19th is International Day of Hope

Sunday August 19, 2012

On August 19, 2008, Australian pregnancy and child loss advocate Carly Marie started an informal tradition of writing her son's name in the sand at Mullaloo Beach Western Australia.  Since then, Carly's project has grown to an on-line support network, and three International holidays, including Day of Hope in honor of her first private beach ceremony for her son Christian.

Carly and her partners have gone on to create a line of cards and an active Facebook community helping to raise awareness of all types of pregnancy and child loss.  This year, they've provided a series of beautiful remembrance photographs for you to share on Facebook.  There is one for everyone.  Browse through their galleries and find one that fits your personal experience best.

You can also share your story at the CarlyMarie ProjectHeal home page.

There is also an opportunity for bereaved parents to share their thoughts and quotes about child death as part of a submission contest for the Loss for Words card line.  The card line is accepting submissions until August 27th, and each person can only submit one.  If you're interested, follow the link above.

Carly is also responsible for International Bereaved Mothers' Day and International Bereaved Fathers' Day, which I will bring you more information about when they come around.

Will you be participating in Day of Hope?

Photo Courtesy of Carly Marie

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