In the early 2000s, five Iowa moms endured the heartache of losing a daughter to stillbirth or infant death. After being connected through friends and pastors, a strong bond quickly formed between Jan, Janet, Kate, Kerry, and Tiffan. During many connected conversations over coffee, the women decided to channel their grief into stillbirth prevention efforts to keep other families from facing the pain of losing a baby.
By 2004, the women worked with the Iowa legislature to create Iowa’s Stillbirth Registry—the most comprehensive stillbirth data collection program in the country—and garnered U.S. Senator Tom Harkin’s support in securing CDC funding for the project. Others heard about the registry work and began advocating for a national Stillbirth Registry to allow more data to be collected more quickly.
A few years later, the women learned about public health research in Norway that demonstrated a 30 percent reduction in stillbirth by teaching pregnant women how to monitor fetal movement during the third trimester of pregnancy by doing kick counts on a daily basis. Several scientific studies, not just the one in Norway, indicate kick counting, a daily record of a baby’s movements (kicks, rolls, punches, jabs) during the third trimester, is an easy, free and reliable way to monitor a baby’s well-being in addition to regular prenatal visits.
The women had found their next project and decided that even if it saved just one baby it would be worthwhile. Based on scientific research, the public awareness campaign, Count the Kicks, was born in 2008.
The next year, the women created Healthy Birth Day, the 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Des Moines, as a way to help fund efforts to spread the Count the Kicks message. Thanks to generous donors, a program was created to make it free for all maternal health providers in Iowa to have their offices stocked with educational Count the Kicks posters and brochures to hand out to every pregnant mom. In the first five years of Count the Kicks, Iowa’s stillbirth rate decreased nearly 29% and has remained at a reduced rate ever since, while the country as a whole has been stagnant.
In a relatively short amount of time, Healthy Birth Day has created a network of supportive hospitals, doctors and advocates across the U.S. who are spreading the Count the Kicks message, including 21 volunteer ambassadors representing 22 states and the District of Columbia. This important public health campaign has gone global thanks to our kick counting app found in the iTunes and Google Play online stores. The app is free and available in ten languages.
Everything that Healthy Birth Day accomplishes is in memory of the founders’ five baby girls: Grace, Madeline, Jayden, Grace, and Emma Kate. Their legacy is making sure countless babies in Iowa and across the globe get the chance to have a healthy birth day.