October 15 is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day.
This is an international day of remembrance, though it’s also part of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, designated an official month of awareness in 1988 by President Ronald Reagan.
What is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day?
October 15, a bittersweet day to celebrate, has been marked on the calendar as a day to remember the littles lives lost to pregnancy or infant loss (that is, miscarriage, stillbirth, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), and any other infant death. It’s a common tragedy that affects both mothers and fathers from all walks of life. This day is set aside to promote awareness, support grieving families, and remember lives lost too soon.
This day is for support and education on a sensitive topic that needs to be discussed more openly. Millions are suffering, and most in silence.
But as you’re well aware, silence isn’t my thing. So we’re breaking it.
If you know someone who lost a child for any of these reasons–and trust me, you do–send them a text today that you’re remembering their little one. If their child had a name, say it’s name. Light a candle in its honor at 7pm your local time. And watch some of the videos I’ve posted here, and on the Undefining Motherhood Facebook Page, to learn more about why I encourage you to donate to First Candle today. Also check out Meet Alison, Executive Director of First Candle.
Miscarriage is the death of a baby while in utero, which ends on its own for various reasons.An estimated 1 in 4 pregnancies ends in miscarriage.
The most common cause of miscarriage is chromosomal abnormality (an estimated 50% of miscarriages are attributed to this cause). Other causes include uterine abnormalities, blood clotting disorders, and immunological disorders in the mother, often which she is never aware she has. There are also causes we just don’t understand. According to my reproductive specialist, only 50% of women who suffer from recurrent miscarriage (the back-to-back loss of 3 or more pregnancies) will ever find a cause. The good news, if we’re up for silver linings, is that most of them can still go on to have a healthy pregnancy without medical intervention–if they’re willing to continue the crapshoot.
Stillbirth, or being “born sleeping,” occurs when a baby is born past 24 weeks gestation but it not alive at the time of its birth. Common causes of stillbirth are intrauterine growth restriction (when, for a number of reasons, the uterus cannot properly grow to accommodate the growing baby), heart defects, severe blood clotting disorders in the mother, and placental abnormalities, such as placental abruption, placenta previa, and pre-eclampsia.)
Stillbirth is far more preventable than miscarriage, but certainly not entirely preventable. Proper medical intervention can usually prevent stillbirth from causes like placenta previa and pre-eclampsia. Still, in the United State, more than 25,000 babies are stillborn annually.
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is a term used to classify many infant deaths before the age of 1 year, but most occur before the age of 6 months. The risk greatly decreases at 3 months. Many of these deaths are caused by suffocation, but they can also be caused by undiagnosed medical problems in an infant.
Every year in the US, an estimated 36,000 children die to SIDS or other sleep-related infant deaths
Infant death due to a diagnosed medical problem, such as a chromosomal heart abnormality, does not technically classify as SIDS, but Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day certainly honors those lives equally.
What Can You Do?
Support families in their grief. Know how real their grief is, and be a shoulder to cry on and an ear to hear. Reach out to them today. Love them always.
Check out some of my posts on miscarriage and grief for more suggestions. I write about miscarriage because it’s my own experience, but the experiences are similar for all types of grief.
Suggested Reading or Viewing for Pregnancy Loss:
Katy Huie Harrison, PhD, is an author, mom, recurrent miscarriage survivor, & owner of Undefining Motherhood. She lives in Atlanta with her husband (affectionately known on the internet as “Husband,”) son (Jack), and dog (Charlotte). She believes our society puts too many expectations on women that make womanhood and motherhood restrictive. Her goal is to shift the paradigm about what it means to be a woman and mother, giving all women a greater sense of agency over their own lives. You can find Katy and her work featured in places like CNN’s Headline News, Romper, Scary Mommy, Demeter Press’s Motherhood and Social Exclusion, & more.