If we could just save one baby, it would all be worth it.
That was our wish for the Count the Kicks campaign that started in Iowa in 2009.
We were five Iowa moms determined to make a difference. We met after we lost daughters within months of each other due to pregnancy complications or stillbirth. Through a series of conversations with doctors and each other, we realized one thing that could help save babies: Counting Kicks.
Our public health campaign, Count the Kicks, teaches expecting parents to track their baby's movements daily during the third trimester of pregnancy. Scientific studies indicate that in addition to prenatal visits, keeping a daily record of baby's movements (kicks, rolls, punches, jabs) during the third trimester is an easy, free and reliable way to monitor baby's well-being and can reduce the rate of stillbirth, which occurs in one in every 160 pregnancies in the United States. This Thanksgiving, families across America who Counted Kicks, now count their blessings:
"The best laid plans... as first time parents, we had our birth plan all laid out. We wanted the golden hour, delayed cord clamping, natural birth, straight to the breast. A C-section was my biggest fear. Then Thursday, October 3rd came, and everything changed.
I had been busy at work trying to get everything transitioned in anticipation of my due date, almost three weeks away. When I was finally able to sit down at my desk, my reminder to count kicks was blinking at me. I suddenly realized that my little acrobat hadn't moved all day. I immediately knew something was wrong, and the only question was whether I went to my doctor's office directly across the street or straight to the hospital. I called the doctor's office and headed over.
I was immediately hooked up for a non-stress test and was relieved when they found a heartbeat. As the testing continued, however, we learned that there was no change in the heartbeat, which indicated no movement. I was sent to the hospital's maternity triage department for more extensive monitoring. Further observation and an ultrasound showed no movement, despite all the poking and prodding to get her to move. The baby needed out sooner rather than later. My husband and I agreed there was no need to try and induce. We just needed her out safe, so an emergency C-section was the new birth plan.
At 7:06 p.m., Alexandra was born with a heartbeat and an APGAR of 1. She was gray, not breathing, and she certainly wasn't moving. All I knew from my vantage point on the operating table was that she was born and the room full of people was dead silent. I anticipated going into it that they would have to work on her a bit, but the silence continued far longer than I would have thought. I finally asked my husband if she was breathing, and he shook his head no. One of the nurses went to the hallway and said, "You guys need to get in here" and a group of people came rushing into the room to work on our daughter. After waiting for what seemed like an eternity, my husband perked up, turned to me and told me she was breathing and had pinked up. I have never known such relief in my life.
Alexandra required a stay in NICU for a week, and we couldn't have been in better hands. There was some type of infection that caused her to get so ill, and I still have to stop and catch my breath when I think about what could have been if we hadn't been aware of the importance of counting your baby's movements.
Thanks to Count the Kicks, we have our beautiful daughter."
- Sarah B., Alexandra's mom
"I just wanted to write and say how deeply thankful I am for this initiative! I now have a 3-month-old little guy home in my arms that wouldn't have been here without Count the Kicks.
Our little man was due December 23, 2012, and everything was going beautifully until one fateful Thursday afternoon on October 18th when I noticed a lack of movement in my belly. I drank juice, laid on my side, and waited... and waited... and waited until panic set it. The doctor on call told me to head to the hospital for monitoring, and there we found a limp baby.
The next morning after a second ultrasound and an unimpressive fetal heart rate I was thrown into a wheel chair and put to sleep to get the little one out as quickly as possible. I awoke to the face of my OB/GYN saying, "Thank you. You saved your baby's life!" I immediately asked if I had a boy or a girl... A BOY! A sweet I was told that our little Cooper James (nick named "Mini Cooper" due to his tiny frame at 30 weeks gestation) would not have made it through the day had I not be counting kicks and paying attention to his movement. I praise God every day for this initiative and being in tune with my baby before even meeting him.
I am constantly telling my pregnant friends, acquaintances... anyone that will listen to count kicks and not take it for granted! Thank you! As I watch my little man snoozing peacefully in his swing I'm overwhelmed with the fact that he is here and he is mine!"
- Tracie K., Cooper's Mom
"Our daughter, Felicity, would not be a healthy, thriving girl if we had not followed Count the Kicks. Starting when I first felt her move, around 20 weeks, I monitored her movement in the morning and just before going to bed. I saw the posters in the doctor's office and had been educated on how to Count the Kicks by my OB doctor.
On Friday, November 22, I was at a community chorus concert with my husband. Our baby loved music and normally would move around like crazy when she heard it. Friday night, though, she didn't move as much as I had thought she would. I counted the kicks that night before I went to bed, and we got our target of 10 kicks in one hour. The next day, I counted the kicks both in the morning and evening but it was taking two hours instead of the typical one hour. The next day we had planned to go to an afternoon movie with my parents, but I told my husband I needed to lie down and count the kicks first. I didn't get 10 kicks in two hours, so we called the doctor's office and went into the maternity triage unit. We fully expected to meet my parents at the movie that afternoon as planned.
The baby's heartbeat was monitored and a biophysical profile was performed. She barely failed the biophysical profile, so the doctor recommended we stay for observation. At 9:30 p.m., another ultrasound was performed and this time she wasn't even close to passing. Our beautiful 2 pound 11 oz girl arrived at 11:24 p.m. on November 24 via an emergency C-section. She was 30 weeks plus six days.
There was no evidence that anything was wrong. The amniotic fluid was clear. The cord was not knotted or wrapped around her. The placenta was healthy. Yet we were told by the doctor that we were within hours of losing her. If I hadn't counted the kicks, we would have lost our second child (our first was born at 16 weeks due to a sub chorionic hemorrhage blood clot).
We were able to take our daughter home with us on January 25 after spending 62 days in the NICU. We feel so blessed to have her. She is such a happy baby, and I am so thankful that I knew to Count the Kicks."
- Katie F., Felicity's Mom
"This is Leo. He was born on November 28, 2012 at 28 1/2 weeks. At my 28 week appointment, I was told about the Count the Kicks program. Honestly, I didn't give it much thought as I'd never had problems with my firstborn and had been pretty healthy with this one. Over Thanksgiving weekend 2012, I noticed some small contractions. By that Monday, I had noticed he wasn't moving much. I thought he was just being stubborn and sleepy. A few days later, on that Wednesday morning, my motherly instincts told me something wasn't right.
I remembered the Count the Kicks advice I was told about exactly a week before.
I called my doctor and was told to come in. There was no fetal movement on the ultrasound, and a very, very faint heartbeat. Within minutes, doctors literally ran me in for an emergency C-section. Leo had to be resuscitated twice, but he made it. He was fortunate to make it through a brain bleed, and after two months in the NICU he came home. He is now an active and ornery 2-year-old.
I can't thank you enough for this program. The doctors told us if I had waited another few hours, both my son and I would not be here to share our story. My advice to all moms to be: Listen to your instincts and Count the Kicks!!!"
- Shannon, Leo's Mom
"During my pregnancy I came across Count the Kicks as a way to be more aware of issues that might be going on with my unborn baby. The moment I was able to feel the baby kick I used the program.
At 32 weeks I started preparing for the Christmas holiday. On December 12th, the baby was super active (so much so that I was a little concerned), but she settled down in the evening. I went shopping with family for an entire day on December 13th. On December 14th, I spent the day making cookies and candy with my mom and sister. During those two days I noticed decreased fetal movement and thought initially I was just too busy and wasn't paying enough attention. Both of these evenings I spent some time on the couch trying to count the kicks but wasn't getting what I wanted in my results. I went to bed thinking I'd get up in the morning and try orange juice on an empty stomach to try to get the baby to move. The following morning I did but got no movement.
Being a first time mom, I didn't want to be a pain and call the doctor because it was a Saturday, but my husband and mother-in-law convinced me. The doctor on call told me to go into the hospital and get checked out. We went, got hooked up to the monitor, and her heartbeat was normal. The ultrasound tech didn't give any indication anything was wrong, but had me turn to lie on my side. We later learned that the baby had stopped breathing and that her cord was wrapped around her neck twice. A nurse soon arrived to deliver the news: our baby girl would need to be delivered. At 32 weeks and five days, her early delivery ended up being a blessing in disguise because after she was born they found a fetal maternal hemorrhage. Apparently she was bleeding out into the womb, and I was absorbing it, which hadn't been visible on ultrasound.
The neonatologist told us she had lost so much blood that another 10 minutes and she would have bled out and died. Chesney Rayne weighed 3 lbs. 14 oz., required three blood transfusions and a month in the NICU, but she was a fighter from the beginning and is now a perfectly healthy, happy 18 month old. When we were discharged the neonatologist told us that in most cases babies born with that degree of blood loss do not survive, and if they do, there are usually long-term health issues. He really was surprised that he wasn't having a totally different conversation with us If it were not for Count the Kicks and learning how to be aware of my baby and my body, Chesney Rayne wouldn't be with us today. The ladies who started this organization are truly amazing and deserve all the support they can get! They have saved so many women from the insufferable pain that I'm sure losing a child can cause. They are based in Iowa but are saving babies nationwide, and that makes them all the more special!"
- Erica O., Chesney's Mom
In 2009, five Iowa moms founded Healthy Birth Day, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to preventing stillbirths. Their goal was to reduce the stillbirth rate in their home state of Iowa by one-third and then take the campaign nationwide. Reaching that goal would mean Count the Kicks would save more than 70 babies in Iowa and more than 8,500 babies in the U.S. every year. Since Count the Kicks began, Iowa's stillbirth rate has gone down by 26 percent. Achieving this kind of success in Iowa is so rewarding, yet it is the countless letters of thanks from grateful parents who credit Count the Kicks with saving their babies that truly warms their hearts. As moms who lost babies of their own, there could be no greater gift.
Meet the Moms behind the Count the Kicks Campaign in this KCCI-TV interview.