The Arkansas Department of Health and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences are partnering with Count the Kicks, an evidence-based stillbirth prevention campaign, to educate expectant parents in Arkansas about the importance of tracking a baby’s movements daily in the third trimester of pregnancy.

Stillbirth is a national public health crisis that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. For Arkansas families, 1 in every 138 pregnancies end in stillbirth, and families in the state are 10 times more likely to lose a baby to stillbirth than to SIDS. Recent data shows the devastating impact of COVID-19 on placentas and babies. Doctors have discovered what they are calling SARS-CoV-2 placentitis, a condition in which the virus attacks the placenta and cuts off oxygen to the baby.

In the U.S. the annual number of stillbirths (defined as the loss of a baby at 20 weeks or greater during pregnancy) far exceeds the number of deaths among children aged 0-14 years from preterm birth, SIDS, accidents, drownings, guns, fire and flu combined. Research shows that nearly 30% of stillbirths can be prevented when expectant parents are educated on the importance of tracking their baby’s movements daily starting at 28 weeks.

Research shows a change in a baby’s movements in the third trimester is an early red flag. By using Count the Kicks, expectant parents can increase the chances of their baby arriving safely. Count the Kicks has a free app available in the iOS and Google Play app stores that provides expectant parents a simple, noninvasive way to monitor their babies’ well-being every day. After a few days using the app, expectant parents begin to see a pattern, a normal amount of time it takes their baby to get to 10 movements. If their baby’s “normal” changes during the third trimester, this could be a sign of potential problems and is an indication that the expectant parent should call her health care provider.

Fort Smith mom Elaina Murry knows first-hand the importance of paying attention to her baby’s movements. She was using the Count the Kicks app, and about a month before her due date, Murry noticed Zelda’s movements change significantly. Murry mentioned it to her health care provider, and after further testing, they made the decision to deliver Zelda early.

“Even though her nonstress test had looked OK, her decreased movements were a harbinger of fetal distress. She was found to have her umbilical cord wrapped tightly around her neck two times, which was preventing her from turning out of breech position and would have likely led to significant complications had we delayed the delivery much longer,” Murry said. After delivery, Murry’s providers discovered an issue with her placenta that also was contributing to Zelda’s distress. “Using the Count the Kicks app was definitely a good choice. The app was an important part of my final days of pregnancy and contributed to the overall picture of needing to deliver her early for both her health and mine.”

Thanks to the partnership with ADH and UAMS, maternal health providers, birthing hospitals, home visitors, social service agencies, childbirth educators and other providers in Arkansas can order FREE Count the Kicks educational materials to help them have the kick counting conversation with expectant parents.

CLICK HERE for more information.

According to CDC Wonder, approximately 268 Arkansas babies are stillborn each year. In Iowa, where Count the Kicks began, the state’s stillbirth rate dropped by nearly 32% in the first 10 years of the campaign (2008-2018). Iowa’s rate went from 33rd worst in the country to one of the lowest, while the country’s stillbirth rate remained relatively flat. Through this collaboration, ADH is hoping to bring the same success to Arkansas, which would save approximately 86 babies in the state each year.5

CDC data shows that every year in the U.S., approximately 700 women will die from childbirth complications, and 22,300 babies will be stillborn. The risk is even greater for Black women who, according to the CDC, are twice as likely to lose a baby to stillbirth than their white neighbor, colleague or friend. Black women are also three times more likely to die of pregnancy complications. For Black women in the U.S., 1 in every 97 pregnancies ends in stillbirth.

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