Preventing Stillbirth: “See Me Feel Me” Awareness Campaign

SeeMeFeelMePictureApproximately 26,000 babies are stillborn in the United States every year.  Stillbirth is defined as the death of a baby before it is born of 20+ weeks gestation or 350 grams.

Stillbirth is terrible.  There is no other way to say it.  It is such a horrible shock to think that all is well and a beautiful baby will be here soon, only to realize that something is terribly wrong.  The women I see get excellent prenatal care, eat right, and care for themselves but they feel that it was for nothing.  They feel robbed and cheated.  They feel betrayed by their bodies and angry at their doctors.  Women blame themselves and tell me how they wish they had protected their babies.  They are tormented by physical and emotional flashbacks.  They feel tortured when they see healthy babies and pregnant bellies everywhere they look.  They fear that they will not be able to have another child.  In the same breath, they feel guilty that having another baby will betray their baby who died.

I will never forget the first woman I met whose baby was stillborn.  Sixteen years ago, the largest high risk OB/GYN practice in the Twin Cities called me to ask me to see this good woman immediately, and I did.  Between sobs and shock, she told me that her pregnancy was uncomplicated and moving along smoothly, as had her previous pregnancies.  All of a sudden, she felt as though someone had punched her in the stomach and she collapsed on her front steps.  Her baby died in that moment.  It was as fast as that.  No warning.  Her suffering touched me deeply and I have carried her in my heart for years.  We were a team.  She did heal over time, with a lot of courage and effort.

I have since seen many women and their partners after their babies have been delivered and buried.  All of the parents have one thing in common:  everyone looks haunted.  Hope is in short supply in those early days after a baby has died.  Every day I keep hope afloat for those who need help to recover after tragedy.

The trauma of stillbirth ripples out into the family.  No one knows what to do or say.  I can understand that.  Sometimes people say nothing, for fear of upsetting grieving parents.  This leaves parents feeling abandoned and invisible.  Sometimes people ask probing questions that end up blaming women for their baby’s death.  Other times, people say stupid things that just wound deeply.  “You can always have another baby.”  (I know from my expertise with those undergoing fertility treatment that that’s not always that the case.)  “God needed a little angel.”  (Really?!  That one sends my patients into orbit.)  And perhaps the most horrible comment of all, “Aren’t you over that by now?”  No mother or father is ever over it but they will find her way back into life with compassion and time.

Even harder is the lack of medical answers for why stillbirth happens.  Women are told that stillbirth is mysterious.  Dr. Jason Collins of The Pregnancy Institute disagrees and has offered suggestions to OB/GYN’s for years on how to monitor pregnancies for umbilical cord abnormalities (i.e., too long, too short, too kinked, too loose, too few arteries, attached in odd ways, constricted).

Survivors of stillbirth are now making their voices heard.  The Star Legacy Foundation has started the “See Me, Feel Me” stillbirth awareness campaign to educate pregnant women about the importance of kick counts and other fetal movement, cord integrity, and other ways to monitor pregnancy.   It is important that a woman tune in to her baby’s patterns.  And most crucial for all pregnant women, TRUST YOUR INTUITION.  The See Me, Feel Me awareness campaign and I teach that if anything feels “off” or “different,” check it out immediately with your health care provider or drive straight to the hospital.  Time is of the essence to prevent stillbirths.  If my health providers had listened to my intuition, my daughter might not have been born at 26 weeks.  It is a personal mission for me to teach women to trust their intuition.

From tragedy to fear, to hope, to life again.  That is the journey.  Please share the See Me, Feel Me awareness campaign with friends, sisters, neighbors, daughters, OB/GYN’s, and midwives.  Together, we can prevent the suffering of stillbirth.


  1. Oh, Deborah! This is a most amazing article that captures the heartache, the community responses that make it more difficult, and the all important beginning steps to teach mom’s to be advocates for their babies prior to birth. As you point out, time is of the essence. Some stillbirths might be prevented if mothers and health care providers worked more closely together to more seriously monitor the baby’s health and take immediate steps when concerns arise. The See Me, Feel Me materials are the BEST in the country. I am hopeful all our local clinics will choose to use these FREE materials and help us save more babies. Thank you from the bottom of my heart (another bereaved mother)….Sherokee Ilse, Author of Empty Arms: Coping with Miscarriage, Stillbirth, and Early Infant Death

  2. Thank you for your comments, Sherokee, and your wonderful books. I hope that by all of us talking about stillbirth, we can prevent tragedy. Be well, my friend.

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