Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month

In 1988, President Ronald Reagan declared October Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Julie Smith, who is a unit coordinator and bereavement counselor at the Sentara RMH Family Birthing Center, said more people should be aware of how common this loss is. Smith said 10 to 25 percent of all clinically recognized pregnancies will end in a miscarriage, which is when an embryo or fetus dies before the 20th week of pregnancy. She said pregnancy loss can occur for many reasons, common ones being the mother having high blood pressure, issues with the placenta, or knots in the umbilical cord.

“It’s the most devastating day of [the family’s] life, and they usually have no idea what to do or what to expect,” Smith said. “It doesn’t just affect the [parents]. It affects the entire family unit.” After a stillbirth, Smith said there is limited time families can spend with the child, but technology called a Cuddle Cot helps extend that time together. “A Cuddle Cot is a cooling device where the baby can stay in the room with the parents as long as they want. No time limit,” Smith said. “In the past, we would have to take the baby away because they would start to break down after being born. The Cuddle Cot extends that time they can have with their baby since that is the only time they will have.”

Without the Cuddle Cot, Smith said babies could only remain with the family for a few hours. Because this affects so many families, Smith said pregnancy and infant loss should be talked about more.

“People need to know this happens and it’s not taboo because a lot of your friends won’t say anything after you lose the baby because they’re afraid to upset you, but a lot of moms need to talk about it,” Smith said. “They need to talk about the child that they had because they did have that child. They don’t anymore, but they did.” Smith’s advice to people who know someone suffering from a pregnancy or infant loss: reach out and show you care and support them.

“There are no specific words that you can say that can make it any better, just let them know you’re there and let them know that you care,” she said.

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