For those expectant parents preparing to welcome a new baby into the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has been especially challenging. A recent survey of Count the Kicks app users shows many pregnant women have experienced changes to their prenatal appointment schedules and a shift to telehealth appointments, which means less time spent in person with their providers who they rely on for important information related to their pregnancy and getting their babies here safely.
At Count the Kicks we began the year with a reinforced vision: To Save 7,500 Babies each year in the U.S., and we remain laser focused on educating and empowering expectant parents about the power of kick counting. During this ongoing pandemic, we know it’s more important than ever for expectant parents to understand the importance of counting their baby’s movements and to feel empowered to speak up if they notice a change.
“When a mom is worried, we’re worried, so it’s really important for a mom to know she can reach out to us and that we want her to reach out to us. As maternal OB care providers, we consider the perception of fetal movement as an important vital sign. We rely solely on the moms to tell us that. When they’re away from this office or away from the hospital, the only way we know about the baby’s well-being is by the feedback we get from the mother, so I think it’s important for them to not be afraid to reach out to us,” said Dr. Tami Fahnlander, an Ob/Gyn with UnityPoint Health in Des Moines, Iowa.
When Amanda Ramthum and Shelley Patterson noticed a change in their babies’ movements in utero in the final weeks of pregnancy, they spoke up to their doctors about the change. Research shows a change in fetal movement is the earliest and sometimes only indication there may be an issue with a pregnancy. Both women hesitated to say anything when they noticed a change because they didn’t want to go into a clinic or hospital that may have had COVID-19 patients inside.
Luckily they did not hesitate — because something was really wrong — and their babies were in major distress. After their doctors told them to come in and ran the appropriate tests, the decision was made to deliver both babies via emergency C-section.
When doctors delivered Everett, they discovered the umbilical cord was wrapped around him three times and he ended up needing six days in the NICU. When doctors delivered Thatcher, they discovered he had swallowed meconium several times and the umbilical cord was wrapped around him. Doctors say both babies could have had completely different outcomes, but are home now and healthy. Their moms are thankful and relieved, knowing it could have ended differently.
“After the surgery was over and Thatcher was OK, I thanked the doctor for saving my baby and being diligent in getting him here safely. She assured me that counting the kicks was the key to knowing something was wrong and that I had saved my baby by paying attention and trusting my gut. She also explained how my story could have turned out differently if I waited to come in for my scheduled C-section. I am thankful to God that I had heard about the Count the Kicks campaign and app from my friend, Amy Ray, who is the Alabama Ambassador for Count the Kicks. I look at Thatcher now, and I know he is a true miracle,” said Shelly Patterson.
Because of our nonprofit organization’s educational resources, including the free Count the Kicks app, expectant parents like Amanda and Shelley understand the importance of counting their baby’s movements (kicks, jabs, rolls and pokes). These moms had the peace of mind to know what was normal for their baby and when it was time to call their provider because they noticed a change. In fact, Count the Kicks app users can even email or text their kick counting data directly to their provider, which can be a helpful way to determine the next best steps for mom and baby.
Through our early warning system Count the Kicks, we have a community of moms who are in tune with their bodies and their babies, letting providers know when something feels off. Time and time again this system works — and babies are being saved across the country. In Iowa where we began, our stillbirth rate is down 32 percent in the past decade.
“Even though it is scary, and it’s a lot of unknown, and it’s a lot of what you don’t expect your pregnancy and your delivery to look like, it’s still worth it in the end. We still got to come home with a healthy baby boy, and the outcome could have been very different if I let my fear of this pandemic stop me from going in that day,” Amanda Ramthun said.
We’re grateful to Amanda and Shelley for reaching out to share their stories, and for encouraging other expectant parents to speak up despite fears of COVID-19.
As researchers continue to explore the effects of COVID-19 on pregnancy and birth, we hope you will join us in our vision to Save 7,500 Babies by sharing Count the Kicks with every expectant parent you know and asking them to download the FREE Count the Kicks app in the third trimester of pregnancy. This is a proven, non-invasive tool. We offer a solution in a time where everything can feel hopeless. We also invite you to explore Count the Kicks Academy for Expectant Parents, a suite of educational videos, guides, and resources to help expectant parents get their baby here safely.
And remember: Every. Kick. Counts.
In Her Own Words: Amanda shares Everett’s Baby Save Story
In Her Own Words: Shelley share Thatcher’s Baby Save Story