Pregnancy And Infant Loss Awareness Month
Updated: Oct 2
Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month takes place this October. To support parents who have lost a child due to miscarriage, stillbirth, SIDS, ectopic pregnancy, incompetent cervix, and other complications, I will be discussing infant loss in detail here.
People from a wide range of backgrounds are affected by infant loss. In fact, each year, thousands of infants in the U.S. die due to this devastating health crisis. Still, not many people know how to talk about this subject or how to help parents going through this terrible tragedy. I’m hoping to shine a light on this issue here and spread awareness and information on this tragic topic!
I know just how important this month is. Sadly, my cousin lost her baby after a long pregnancy. She told me:
“One day things looked great, and then a few days later, I was having an emergency procedure (known as a cerclage) done to prevent premature labor. For me, my incompetent cervix diagnosis came without any forewarning. I was told my cervix was shortening dramatically and at a rapid rate, way earlier than it was supposed to; essentially giving out under the weight of my growing baby.”
Just a few months ago, my cousin gave birth to a healthy baby boy. In recognition of my cousin’s loss and the thousands of women who suffer from infant loss each year, I’m writing this blog post on Pregnancy and Infant Awareness Month.
Quick Facts About Pregnancy and Infant Loss:
Infant loss affects families all over the globe. Like me, it’s possible that someone you know will have to deal with this tragedy.
Around 1 in 4 women in the United States are affected by infant loss.
1 in 160 births will result in a stillbirth.
Stillbirths have been on the decline since 1940, but in recent years this decline has halted.
Each year, around 24,000 babies are born stillborn.
10 to 15 percent of pregnancies result in miscarriage.
What is Infant Loss?
While many pregnancies result in healthy births, a lot of women still struggle with infant loss. Again, a staggering 1 in 4 pregnancies will result in the death of a child. What exactly is infant loss? Depending on where in the world you live, the medical definition of infant loss could vary. Generally, though, infant loss is defined as either a miscarriage or a stillbirth.
Miscarriage refers to a pregnancy where the baby dies before 20 weeks. Stillbirth refers to infant death after 20 weeks. The causes of infant deaths are varied. Some babies don’t develop healthily and die. Other times, the mother might suffer from health complications that cause infant death. This could include ectopic pregnancy, sepsis, septate uterus, incompetent cervix and other issues.
History of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month?
I was curious about the history of this awareness month and found out that Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month was founded in 1988. United States President Ronald Reagan officially announced that October would be the month our country recognized and brought awareness to parents who have lost their infants. Unfortunately, many people don’t realize just how much this issue affects Americans and people around the world. He understood that the loss of any child is never easy and took action.
Infant loss is a type of tragedy that can change the entire trajectory of someone's life. So, in consideration of parents' unique grief, organizations, research centers, and other groups promote this month of awareness. Americans try to support each other through charitable actions, educational activities, and other appropriate events all throughout the month of October.
How Can You Support Those Affected by Child Loss?
Infant death isn’t something that people like to talk about. Even if you are trying to comfort a close family member or friend, you might feel like you don’t have the right words to say. Helping someone deal with this immense loss is difficult. But there are some steps I recommend taking to support the important people in your life during this hardship. Try out these tips:
Be Compassionate and Empathetic: Don’t brush off the pain and loss of a child. You shouldn’t tell anyone how to grieve. While you didn’t get to know the child your loved ones lost, you should show your support by being compassionate. Let them know that you are there for them and that you understand their pain. More importantly, listen to what your loved ones are saying. Show them that you valued their child’s life through your compassion.
Just Try to Listen: Sometimes, the best thing to do is just listen. Everyone experiences grief in their own unique way. In some cases, parents might not want to hear words of comfort or hear advice that will help them move on. People need time to heal in their own way. Be patient and open as you listen to them talk about the infant they lost.
Help With Chores and Other Responsibilities: Actions can speak louder than words. Again, a lot of us don’t know what to say when someone we love is in pain over infant loss. In this situation, you can help by offering to do chores and taking on other responsibilities. Clean up your loved ones' home, cook for them, do laundry, and aid them with other tasks around the house. When people are grieving they can neglect their own self-care and home. You can help them regain a sense of control by being kind and helpful.
Donate to Charitable Organizations: Children lost to miscarriage and other pregnancy complications can’t be brought back. However, you can help fund research and education programs to prevent further losses. Donating to a reputable organization that fights against infant loss, will allow you to personally help bring awareness to this important topic.
Suggest Professional Counseling: Grief counseling is extremely helpful in cases of infant loss. Gently suggest professional help to your loved ones, especially if they are struggling to process their emotions. You might need to go to counseling too, since helping someone through infant loss can be draining.
How Can Parents Navigate Their Grief After The Loss of Their Child?
Parents who are going through infant loss might need help getting through the loss. I suggest trying these steps:
Join A Support Group: You might not be ready to talk about losing your child with family or friends as they don’t fully understand what you are going through. If this is the case, you should consider going to a support group. Infant loss support groups can help parents meet other people who have undergone the same loss. These types of groups can also help you open up to people that will really understand what is happening in your life.
Open Up to People You Trust: If support groups aren’t a comfortable option for you, try opening up to someone you trust. This can be a close friend, a community leader, or someone in your family. It won’t be easy talking about your loss, but you have to talk to someone about it eventually. Bottling up your emotions will only make it harder to deal with grief.
Take Care of Yourself: Try your best not to neglect your health and wellbeing as you grieve. Even if you are getting emotional support, you still need to keep your body healthy. Make sure you are eating well, exercising, sleeping, and getting out of your house when you are comfortable. Taking care of both your mind and body will help you heal and move through the grief process.
Don’t Be Afraid to Heal: Many parents blame themselves for the loss of their child. While this is a common reaction, you don’t have to keep feeling guilty. It’s natural to heal and start moving on with your life. You can grieve at your own pace, but you don’t want to stay stuck in grief forever. Healing doesn’t mean that you have forgotten your child.
What Research Is Being Done?
Luckily, the stigma against fertility issues and infant loss is slowly starting to go away. It’s still difficult navigating this topic, but the scientific community is making progress with its research. Scientists still don’t fully understand all the causes of miscarriage and infant loss. However, doctors are getting better at detecting potential infant loss and helping women keep their babies.
In addition, institutions across the globe continue to fund studies that will help reduce infant mortality. I’ll talk about a few of these programs in the final section of the post. These are great resources that help women from all walks of life.
Programs and Resources That Help Those Affected by Infant Loss?
March of Dimes: One of the most well-known organizations in the country, March of Dimes is dedicated to preventing infant loss and supporting parents. March of Dimes offers great resources for women and has funded many different projects to help parents combat infant loss.
International Stillbirth Alliance: The International Stillbirth Alliance helps bring awareness to infant loss around the world. They are also involved in major research efforts. This group focuses more on stillbirth, but they are a great resource for anyone dealing with infant loss.
MISS Foundation: This foundation is aimed at supporting parents that have already lost a child. If you are dealing with grief and need help contact the MISS foundation. MISS Foundation also takes political action and advocates for parents. They have helped pass numerous bills.
The Center for Loss in Multiple Birth (CLIMB): CLIMB is another great resource to consider using. Parents and families dealing with infant loss can find support and information about infant loss on the CLIMB website to get them through their grief.
Helping After Neonatal Death (HAND): Finally, HAND is a California-based support group. They offer local and nationwide support. In-person therapy groups and phone support can be accessed on their website. You can also read personal stories about infant loss to help you cope more healthily.