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Cooperative Collaborates on First-Ever New Jersey Stillbirth Awareness Campaign - October 9, 2023

👶 A stillbirth awareness campaign for NJ parents and doctors has been unveiled

👶The campaign focuses on stillbirth awareness, education, and prevention

👶 New Jersey has one of the highest stillbirth rates in the United States

Did you know that a stillbirth can happen even if a woman is experiencing a normal, healthy pregnancy?

New Jersey has unveiled its first-ever statewide awareness campaign entitled Stillbirth: Can Happen to Any Pregnancy, a fully dedicated stillbirth resource for New Jersey parents, and healthcare providers centered on stillbirth awareness, education, and prevention, said Ann Mruk, a nurse at Central Jersey Family Health Consortium, and Director of Professional Development and Education

What is stillbirth?

Stillbirth refers to the death or loss of a baby before or during delivery after 20 weeks of pregnancy, Mruk explained.

What are some key stillbirth statistics?

According to the New Jersey Department of Health, Mruk explained that the 2018 statewide fetal mortality rate per 1,000 live births was 6.9. This includes all races and ethnicities. That is approximately 700 stillbirths that occur each year in New Jersey.

In 2020, stillbirth was one of the most common adverse pregnancy outcomes in the United States, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine

“Even more shocking is that every pregnancy is at risk for stillbirth, which is the vital message of our campaign,” Mruk said.

What is the importance of the campaign?

The stillbirth campaign has a three-pronged approach, which is to increase awareness of the problem, implement strategies for prevention, and provide resources for birthing families and providers, she said.

The initiative consists of a statewide website, which is available in five different languages: English, Spanish, Portuguese, Korean, and Tagalog.

“The website offers resources for those who are currently pregnant, including tips for having a conversation with your healthcare provider, talking with your provider about a proper diet and rest, genetic counseling resources, identifying risk factors, and tips for reducing your risk,” Mruk said.

There are also sections on the website for those who have experienced a stillbirth. Also, there are sections for those who want to support grieving parents, and for providers. The resources are broken down by each region: North, Central, and South Jersey.

“We’ve included stories from each of our family advisory board members and the stories convey the message that you are not alone,” Mruk said.

There are plenty of support groups throughout the state of New Jersey, resources and books that grieving parents can turn to, plus resources for providers to help them communicate with grieving families.

First Lady Tammy Murphy’s “Nurture New Jersey” strategic plan to make New Jersey the safest and most equitable place in the nation for birthing families to deliver and raise a baby, has given this statewide initiative the opportunity to focus on stillbirth and decrease the rates within the state, Mruk said.

How is the campaign being funded?

The campaign is funded by the New Jersey Department of Health. It is a collaboration of the state’s licensed maternal child health consortia, Central Jersey Family Consortium, Partnership for Maternal and Child Health of Northern New Jersey, and Southern New Jersey Perinatal Cooperative, and Debbie Haine Vijayvergiya, a renowned stillbirth awareness advocate, as well input from the family advisory board that consists of six New Jersey parents who have experienced stillbirth.

What are some risk factors for stillbirth?

Risk factors for stillbirth that can be modified or changed include obesity, diabetes that is diagnosed before pregnancy, chronic hypertension, smoking, illicit drug use, pregnancies that are conceived using assisted reproductive technology such as in vitro fertilization, or somebody who has inadequate prenatal care.

Can pregnant women do anything to help prevent a stillbirth?

Yes. Managing chronic health conditions before becoming pregnant is key, as well as avoiding the use of drugs, alcohol, and tobacco.

Mruk said even something simple as washing your hands with soapy water frequently to prevent infection, and prevent the transmission of infection, whether that was from touching raw eggs or meat or touching dirty soil.

What are some signs to look out for that could point toward a stillbirth?

Pregnant women need to be aware of their baby’s activity. That means how much the baby is moving around, and how they’re feeling those fetal movements.

Any changes in fetal movement, especially a decrease in fetal movement is a red flag. A pregnant woman should contact their healthcare provider immediately. Do not wait for Monday if this is happening on the weekend. Do not wait for your next doctor's appointment.

“Do not wait,” Mruk stressed.

What is the main message of the stillbirth awareness campaign?

“I think that a lot of people aren’t aware that stillbirth can happen to any pregnancy. A pregnancy could be going along very nicely, no complications, no issues, and this is something that can happen from out of the blue,” Mruk warned.


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