Shouting out the message about Fetal Movements together.
Why I wanted to become involved with the campaign.
I’m so happy to announce that I will be working with Kicks Count to help promote a message about baby movement that is vital to all pregnant women and their families.
Who are Kicks Count?
Kicks Count is a UK registered charity that aims to empower mums to be with knowledge and confidence throughout their pregnancy.
What is their mission?
Their mission is to ensure that all pregnant women are aware of how important their baby’s movements are, that they are aware of the the most up-to-date recommendations for monitoring movement and that they have the confidence to speak to a medical professional if they have any concerns. To achieve this the charity produces leaflets, posters and booklets which are used in hospitals, GP surgeries and appear in Bounty packs. They can be ordered and distributed by medical professionals.
Kicks Count exhibits at major baby shows and professional health events across the UK to build awareness and they also use the media and social media to spread their message and reach as many people as possible.
Why did I want to work with Kicks Count?
As a midwife and a blogger I feel I am in a privileged position in helping to get this important message across. I came across Kicks count many years ago when they were called Count The Kicks. Their message is a universally important one.
Please be aware that the following contains sensitive information and may be upsetting. I felt I needed to share this to express my feelings about this subject and why I wanted to be involved with Kicks Count.
I have been in midwifery now for 13 years, 3 as a student and 10 as a registered midwife. Over that time I have rotated through maternity, gaining varying experience with pregnancy and childbirth. I’ve also worked within The Fetal Medicine Unit and spent some time in the Maternal and Fetal Research department. The experience I wish to share with you here, is one whilst working on the maternity day unit. This is where you are referred if the community midwife finds you have elevated blood pressure, you phone if you are concerned about reduced fetal movements, you have itching in pregnancy or you need an iron infusion for a low heamoglobin level amongst other problems.
On the day unit many women come through the doors either via self referral or referral by the Community Midwife with reduced fetal movements. The vast majority of these women will go home reassured that on that day their baby is well. The fetal heart monitoring has shown all is ok. Still we will advise them to call again if there are any further concerns, even if it’s the same or next day. That is after all what we are there for.
Then there are the cases that no midwife wishes to see and no pregnant women wants to be. Policy is that any woman self referring with reduced movements will jump the queue for an initial review and fetal heart auscultation. If all ok then they will rejoin the queue and await a full review and CTG (continuous Cardiotocograpgh). So many times had I made this assessment to find all was reassuring. This time was different. The mother was 36 weeks pregnant and had not felt movements for a couple of days. She’d had a couple of busy days and thought that was the reason for not noticing movements, as many women do.
I invited her into the assessment room. She understandably looked petrified. We made introductions and I took a brief history whilst she was getting ready on the couch. I knew all too well she was anxiously awaiting to hear her baby’s heartbeat, it was a sound I was also eager to find. Before attempting to find a heartbeat, a midwife will always palpate the mother’s abdomen to ascertain the baby’s position. This allows us to asses growth and to find the optimum place to pick up the baby’s heartbeat.
I know this may sound strange but as soon as I laid my hands on her tummy I knew. I can’t tell you how much I longed to be wrong. I can only explain that I felt cold. I tried to remain professional. However I’m human and it’s hard to hold back the look of despair. I told her that sometimes these little ones can get into awkward positions that make it difficult to find the heartbeat, that is sometimes true. She was clutching her mother’s hand. I could see that she was trying her best to hold back the tears. I think she knew too. I felt inadequate, why couldn’t I get this baby’s heartbeat, I will find it I protested in my mind. But I couldn’t. I knew I wouldn’t be able to. No matter how hard I wished for that precious sound to become audible, it wouldn’t.
I took the mother’s hand and explained that I was sorry but I was struggling to find her baby’s heartbeat. I explained that a sonographer in scan would need to take a closer look to see how her baby was. She looked me in the eye and asked me if her baby was dead. I had to be honest. I explained that I couldn’t confirm either way but I would ensure scan would see her as soon as possible.
The departments where I work have a fantastic relationship and when a call like this is made, staff will move mountains to make a scan machine available. I escorted the mother and her family to the scan department (I have to add here that this was a number of years ago and the service has made improvements. Women can be scanned within the day unit, negating the need to move someone in this situation).
I waited. Then I heard the deafening screams. I can still hear them. It was confirmed. Sadly, the baby had passed away. I struggled and failed to hold back tears. I was a mother myself at this point in my career. I could sense the devastation, my stomach turned and a lump grew in my throat. If this is how I felt, I don’t think there are any words to describe how that family felt. No family should ever have to go through this.
Following the scan we had to discuss ‘what happens next’. This conversation in my mind is a cruel blow to the awful news just discovered. But unfortunately necessary. Of course we give families time to let the news settle upon their ears. But I don’t think any amount of time will be sufficient for them to be ready. The conversation that follows must include discussions about birth, tests and bereavement. No sooner have these families had their world torn apart do we have to then discuss procedures. I won’t go into details about why these discussions are needed so soon after but I assure you that if they could be left they would.
I’ll never forget that family. Unfortunately their story is like so many others. The message about normal fetal movements needs to be clearer and stronger. I think we have made vast improvements over the years since this story but much is still to be done. For some, sadly there are no warning signs. But for others, a change in movements could be a warning sign and the few hours or days that have passed between a concern and a review could mean the difference between life and death.
Mothers would say to me, ‘I know you guys are always heaving, ‘I didn’t want to bother you’, ‘I’ve been busy and I thought it was a case of being too busy to notice movements’, ‘I was only in 2 days ago and everything was fine’, or ‘everyone says it’s normal for movements to slow down at the end, there’s less room’. No. No. No.
These myths are just plain wrong. Babies’ movements do NOT slow down at the end of pregnancy and it is NOT better to wait if you are at all worried about your baby not moving. Don’t rely on well-meaning advice from friends and family – a healthcare professional will always understand and will always see you if you are at all concerned.
Kicks Count works to bust the myths and spread the important message about monitoring baby movement. They work closely with The Department of Health, the Royal College of Midwives and many other healthcare professionals and medics who research stillbirth in an attempt to ascertain patterns and causes.
So you see why I consider the work that Kicks Count do so incredibly important. To simply put it – They save lives.
You can find out more about them at www.kickscount.org.uk or find their Facebook page and join their community of supporters.
Read advice on normal fetal movements here.
The Tale of Mummyhood