On the CooperGenomics blog, we try to focus on important topics in fertility and genetics, while keeping our tone light and throwing in ample pop culture references, and puns, when possible. Today’s subject though, we’ve chosen to address with a more gravitas than usual given the sensitivity and importance of raising awareness around pregnancy and infant loss.
On October 25th, 1988, President Ronald Reagan designated the entire month of October as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Since then, every October has become a time to discuss, educate, and raise awareness around pregnancy loss, stillbirth, SIDS, and the death of a newborn. The official colors of this month are, appropriately, light pink and baby blue.
Across the world, the 15th of October in particular is observed with several remembrance ceremonies, concluding with the Lights of Love International Wave of Light. This is a beautiful ritual observed in Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, New South Wales, Italy, and the United States where candles are all lit at the same time to honor the memory of the children lost.
One in four women will experience a pregnancy or infant loss in her lifetime. Families from every ethnicity, background, and religion have faced this painful, and often not discussed, loss. This month is a reminder to those who have experienced this level of devastation that you do not need to suffer in silence. There are many, too many, who understand and have experienced similar grief and can be a source of support.
In terms of miscarriages, it’s unfortunately common (approximately 1 in 6 pregnancies end before 12 weeks) and can be a tremendous shock, no matter how early or late in the pregnancy it occurs. Some women report spotting, cramping, or heavy bleeding that indicates there is a problem, while others learn of a pregnancy loss at what should have been a routine ultrasound where there is no longer a heartbeat.
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is the leading cause of death among infants between 1 and 12 months of age in America. Quite often, the specific cause of death isn’t always clear which can make it even more difficult to find closure. The CDC recommends several measures to help reduce the chances of SIDS that you can read here.
According to the National Stillbirth Society, stillbirth occurs in about 1 in 160 pregnancies. The American Pregnancy Association, For many parents, stillbirth is a loss that hits unexpectedly. In fact, up to half of all stillbirths occur in pregnancies that had seemed problem-free. In terms of grieving such a loss, they recommend talking to people about you’re feeling, writing about your feelings in a journal (or even writing a letter to your baby), or planting a tree in the baby’s memory.
No matter the type of loss, the grieving process can be profoundly difficult, and dates such as the projected due date can be a painful reminder.
It’s normal to experience many different emotions ranging from anger, denial, and depression,. You may need time for physical healing as well, especially if a D & C (Dilation and curettage) procedure is required. Depending on what your doctor recommends and what you and your partner feel comfortable with, you may opt to wait several cycles (or longer) before trying to conceive again.
It’s important that you speak with your doctor and ask if they have any insight as to why you experienced this loss. Depending on the circumstance, you may be able to pursue genetic testing on the product of the conception. This can determine if a genetic abnormality was present that may have been responsible for the loss. If you have had several miscarriages, you may also want to ask about your reproductive endocrinologist about Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) or Preimplantation Genetic Screening (PGS) to see if any of these might help you achieve a successful pregnancy.
This month, a time to acknowledge these losses, is also an ideal time to seek out others who have experienced a loss as well. There is a level of understanding that is unparalleled, and support from your peers can be immensely helpful. On social media, you can look for the hashtag, #PregnancyAndInfantLossAwarenessMonth.
Even though there is a month dedicated to Pregnancy and Infant Awareness, this is something we think about year-round at CooperGenomics. We are dedicated to providing education and resources to improve outcomes and empower families worldwide. If there’s any question you have or way we can help support you on your family building journey, please visit our site to learn more.