Top Six Ways to Prevent Stillbirth

I recently had the privilege of presenting at the Star Legacy Foundation’s Stillbirth Summit 2014, here in Minneapolis.  I presented on using energy psychology, including EMDR and clinical hypnosis, to heal trauma after a stillbirth.  Being part of the remarkable international faculty was amazing and humbling.  I learned a great deal.  Here are six crucial recommendations to prevent stillbirth in the future:

1) Elective Delivery Before 39 Weeks Can Prevent Stillbirth
In 2013, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine (SMFM) strongly recommended against elective delivery prior to 39 weeks gestation, unless there is a valid medical reason or indication. Valid medical indications including preeclampsia/eclampsia, HELLP syndrome, fetal growth restriction, placental abruption, multiple fetuses, and poorly controlled diabetes. Having a large baby is no longer considered a reason to induce or deliver by cesarean before 39 weeks.

The “39 Week Rule” was instituted in response to the rise in C-sections and NICU admissions in the United States. These are incredibly important issues.  However, the unintended consequence is a dramatic rise in the number of stillbirths.  Multiple physicians and researchers from the United States, England, Australia, and New Zealand agreed strongly that the rate of stillbirth can be reduced by inducing labor before 39 weeks of pregnancy.  Many said that placentas have an ending point and “run out of gas” at the end of pregnancy.

2) Babies do not slow down at the end of pregnancy.  Be aware of fetal movement, not just kicks
Every presenter talked about the crucial importance of being aware of fetal movement late in pregnancy.  This means kicks and other movements.  Women should use their intuition and call or go to their medical providers immediately if fetal movement is different than the baby’s normal pattern.  All of the presenters dispelled the myth that babies slow down at the end of pregnancy.  They do not.

3) End Membrane Stripping
There was an urgent recommendation AGAINST membrane stripping to induce labor. There was deep concern about how membrane stripping can introduce unnecessary, rapid infections that often result in stillbirth.

4) Sleep on the left side during pregnancy
Most presenters at Stillbirth Summit 2014 strongly urged pregnant women to sleep on their left side to prevent stillbirth. Back sleeping was strongly discouraged as it restricts blood flow.  Sleeping on the right side has not been studied as much as the left but presenters acknowledged that it is fine to do.

5) Rule out or treat sleep apnea during pregnancy
Sleep disordered breathing (sleep apnea and chronic snoring) are implicated in pre-eclampsia, and a drop in fetal heart rate.  A fascinating secondary question was brought up at the Summit:  should all women with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) be worked up for sleep apnea?

6) Babies that are smaller or larger for gestational age are at higher risk for stillbirth
Don’t assume that all is well if a baby is smaller or larger than expected.  Researchers suggested that the size of the baby is giving data about the health of the placenta.


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Infertility, Miscarriage, and Stillbirth Are Rough on Father’s Day

Father’s Day can be challenging for men on the infertility journey or after a miscarriage or stillbirth.  Being a father in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) with a struggling preemie isn’t the beautiful day you have hoped for, either.  On this Father’s day, I wish love and hope for all fathers to be.  You matter in the family building journey.    


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“Return to Zero”: A Movie about Recovering After a Stillbirth

I see many women and their partners who are recovering after a stillbirth. Parents and their families are devastated for a long time.  On May 17th, Lifetime will air the movie “Return to Zero, a true story of a couple whose first child is stillborn just before the due date. It follow howthis devastating event affects each parent and the marriage. Stillbirth is not a grief you “get over” but one which can become a part of life going forward. Please share and let others know.  And please watch the movie and honor parents who have been through so much.  


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You are Still a Mother After Stillbirth or Miscarriage

you are still a mother


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A Mother’s Day Ritual After Stillbirth or Miscarriage

Mother’s Day is hard for many after stillbirth or miscarriage. You may question if you are still a mother if your baby is not physically with you. Let me set you straight on that one—you definitely are still a mother after a stillbirth or miscarriage. Others may not understand but you and I do.

It can be helpful to develop rituals to remember and honor your baby on Mother’s Day and every day. Some people plant perennial gardens. Others wear symbolic jewelry to remind themselves and other people about how much their child is loved. This is often a time when people make donations in a child’s name to organizations that have special meaning.

One of my favorite rituals is a variation on the tashlich ritual that happens on the first day of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Tashlich comes from the Hebrew word meaning “to cast,” referring to the intent to cast something away. My variation of the ritual suggests that you bring small pieces of bread to a body of water (a river, a stream, a lake, or a pond). With each casting of the bread into the water, send away resentments, the hurtful or clueless thing that someone has said to you, your negative thoughts or feelings about yourself, or anything that might give you a little bit of space or grace inside.

There was a day where I did this ritual on the first day of Rosh Hashanah. I brought bread to one of the lakes near my house and began to cast them into the lake. It was quiet and serene. I had some time to meditate on the year that had passed and the year to come. After a few minutes, a gull landed on the water, took the bread and flew away. In a mysterious way, more and more gulls appeared, gently flying to the surface of the water and taking away more of the bread. It was one of the most moving days of my life. I felt lighter and freed up in some way. It’s something that I look forward to every year now.

Try out this ritual on Mother’s Day or on any day that you feel you need to let go of something. You might find just a little more space inside that can help you as you grieve.


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Active Healing for Stillbirth Trauma

I had a stillbirthThis weekend I am getting additional training in esoteric healing, a type of energy work, with Patricia Enstad, MS, LISW, CMT.  I have been using energy work in my therapy sessions for a couple of years.  I am now preparing a talk for the Star Legacy Foundation’s Stillbirth Summit 2014 in June called “Active Healing:  Treating the Mind-Body Trauma of Stillbirth with Energy Psychotherapy.”  Here’s a teaser:  talk therapy is not enough to heal from the physical, emotional, relational, and energetic traumas of a stillbirth.

If you have had a stillbirth, what would you like doctors and others to know about your experience?   Please leave a comment here or send me a private email at dsimmonsphd@pih-mpls.com.  Please share this question with others.  Healing comes from our working together.


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