In Australia there are six stillborn babies every day - a heartbreaking statistic that hasn't changed in 20 years.To highlight the impact on the families who leave hospital without their baby, Stillbirth Foundation Australia has released a powerful new video which shares the stories of three couples coping with their grief and loss.
"This video is a tragic, but vital display of what it means to have a stillbirth," said Victoria Bowring, the Foundation's General Manager. "Only by drawing attention to this public health crisis, can we make a difference. I challenge anyone to look at this and then argue we don't need more funding into stillbirth research, or more education for parents about what can be done to reduce your chances of stillbirth."
Featuring Stillbirth Foundation Australia ambassadors, Bree and Evan, Lauren and Shane and Cassie and Ryan, the clip discusses both the prevalence of stillbirth, and the heartache families endure from the moment they hear the life-changing news, to returning home with empty arms.
At around the 35 week mark, former Big Brother housemate Bree noticed a change in her little boy's movements, describing that they became "less frequent". The expectant mum visited her obstetrician who checked her baby Archie's heartbeat and reassured her he was fine. The following morning, however, Bree knew, instinctively, "as soon as I opened my eyes," that something was wrong". "l literally felt sick," she said. "When I moved I didn't feel him move."
It was the day of Bree's baby shower. "I went to this lunch," she says, "and I was sitting there and the whole time I was just worried because I still hadn't felt him move."
Shane and Lauren's excitement that they were expecting their second child, a son, quickly turned to crushing grief. "When the midwife is looking for his heartbeat, it feels like an eternity," Lauren says. "Everything is silent. And every second that goes on from there, when they can't find anything, and they're getting you to move into different positions, is just more heartbreaking."
"Time just stood still," her husband Shane adds.
For Cassie and Ryan the shock of learning that their little one, Dex, had died was followed by the trauma of realising Cassie would need to be induced to deliver her baby. "I just thought how can she do this?" says Ryan. "Now she has to go and give birth to a son who doesn't have a heartbeat."
"Leaving hospital without your baby is the hardest thing you'll ever do in your entire life," Cassie adds.
All three couples also speak of their world crumbling, of their hopes and dreams for the future coming "crashing down".
"It just twists the knife a little bit more when this little person is born and they're perfect," says Bree.
For Shane and Lauren, trying to explain to loved ones that they spent 48 hours with their baby after he was born was another challenge they had to face - and an issue they hope to raise awareness of. "I don't think people realise this is quite essential to the time you spend with your child," says Lauren, describing that for bereaved parents it's about creating as many memories with their little ones as they can. "The hardest part is knowing it wasn't just Landon on the 5 May," she says. "There were five other babies in Australia. I think people are quite naive to the statistics because it's not spoken about."
Raising awareness of the prevalence of stillbirth and the need for more funding and support is an issue Bree and Evan also feel passionate about. "The rate of stillbirth hasn't changed in two decades because there's just not enough research or funding towards something that is such a big issue and can affect anyone," says Bree. "With more research and funding and education around what to look for, this can change.
"We never though it would happen to us," says Evan. "But it did. And it does happen."
Although it is unclear if stillbirth can be prevented, according to Stillbirth Foundation Australia there are tips women can follow:
- Ensuring a healthy lifestyle and adequate folic acid intake prior to conception
- Attending all regular antenatal appointments
- Having an ultrasound in early pregnancy
- Screening for fetal growth restriction and pregnancy risks
- Supplementing a healthy diet with folic acid, iron, calcium and vitamin supplements
- Management of diabetes and hypertension prior to conception and during pregnancy
- Inducing post-term pregnancies as well as consideration of planned caesareans for babies in breech presentation
Additionally, while it was previously believed that babies "slow down" in the later stages of pregnancy, this myth has recently been debunked. Evidence has shown that while babies have less room to move, they should still be active with strong regular kicks. "Few movements or even none at all may actually be a sign of distress and not a conservation of energy in preparation for birth," the foundation says.
Our ambassadors made a short doco about stillbirth. It's a hard watch but about as real as it gets. Thank you to all who gave their time to help make this - Bree & Evan, Ben & Sonya, JB, Cass & Ryan, Lauren & Shane. #stillbirthfoundationaustralia #stillbirthawareness #6babiesadayistoomany Link is below & in the bio https://youtu.be/c42U-AMVS8Y