Five Iowa moms, connected by a tragic shared experience, are hoping to reduce stillbirth rates through the use of technology.
Ninety-nine percent of women who reach 20 weeks of pregnancy go on to successfully deliver a new bundle of joy. Sadly, the remaining one percent do not have the same positive outcome. Each year in the United States, 24,000 pregnancies end in stillbirth.
Many women rejoice when they make it through the first trimester of pregnancy. Knowing that the risk of miscarriage has gone down substantially, expectant parents breathe a sigh of relief. For Kate, Kerry, Janet, Tiffan, & Jan, this was precisely their response as well. The five Des Moines-area moms met in 2003 after they all lost their daughters to late-term stillbirth or infant death.
Initially, the moms met in coffee shops to share their grief and offer support to one another. However, the bereaved moms soon found a way to turn their tragedy into something positive for other families.
Through the creation of the non-profit organization Healthy Birth Day, the women have united over a shared mission: to prevent stillbirth and infant death through education, advocacy, and support.
The organization, which is predominantly run by volunteers, has done many amazing things in the last 14 years. In addition to getting Iowa’s stillbirth registry law enacted, the women have formed bereavement groups and have created parent-to-parent networks to connect families immediately following a loss.
In 2005, the women began one of their biggest projects to date: Count the Kicks.
The Count the Kicks campaign aims to educate expectant parents about the importance of tracking baby movements during the third trimester of pregnancy. What began as a public health campaign, is now an app! In October 2013, the women launched the Count the Kicks App, making it easier for expectant moms to ensure that their babies are moving regularly.
Once a mom inputs her personal information, the app offers a time range of when mom should start counting her baby’s kicks. The app makes it easy to record daily kicks, giving Mom a good baseline idea of how her baby moves. It even offers Mom a daily kick-count reminder.
The app has recently gained a lot of publicity. It has been credited with saving the life of at least one baby. Emily Eekhoff was a frequent user of the Count the Kicks App.
One day, during her 33rd week of pregnancy, she noticed that her baby was not moving as much and with much less energy. Upon arriving at the hospital, she learned that her baby was in significant distress and needed immediate delivery. “The app helped me to know her patterns of movement so when the pattern changed, I knew something was wrong, which did save her life,” Eekhoff told ABC News.
The five founders of Healthy Birth Day have many reasons to be proud. Since the inception of the Count the Kicks campaign, Iowa’s stillbirth rate has gone down 26%. This is significant considering the stillbirth rates for the remainder of the country have stayed the same.