Each year, about 24,000 babies are stillborn in the U.S. Stillborn births account for one percent of all pregnancies. However, by counting to 10, women across the globe are helping to reduce that rate.
"It saved the life of my child"
Wellmark member Emily Price was a TV news reporter in 2009, when she covered a story about Count the Kicks External Site®.
The program educates expectant parents about the importance of tracking baby movements during the third trimester of pregnancy. With the program, expectant parents record how long it takes the baby to get to 10 movements, or 10 kicks, rolls, punches or jabs. Repeated daily, at about the same time each day, a pattern will emerge. If that pattern changes significantly, it’s a sign that something may be wrong.
One year later, when she was 30 weeks pregnant, Price put her knowledge to use. She had been keeping track of fetal movement for a few weeks, when one day she noticed the baby was moving less.
“I really didn’t think it was a cause for concern, but my OB/GYN told me to call with any questions. So, I did,” says Price. Soon after, her doctor requested she come in for monitoring and tests.
Those tests confirmed Price was in early labor. She was hospitalized and given a steroid injection to help her baby’s lungs develop more quickly in case of preterm birth.
“It was an incredibly pivotal, emotional time,” says Price.
Price was put on bedrest for about five weeks. Four weeks later, Hayden was born full term. While her doctors were never certain what caused the preterm labor, one thing is for certain, says Price, “I am so thankful I was keeping track of movements, and that I didn’t second guess contacting my doctor. It’s quite possible that Hayden would not be here today if it hadn’t been for Count the Kicks.”
Today, Hayden is a happy, healthy 7-year-old, with a 2-year-old sister, Lyla. Price now serves as the executive director of Healthy Birth Day, Inc., the nonprofit organization that funds efforts in spreading the Count the Kicks’ message.
“I feel a sense of urgency,” says Price. “We hear far too often from expectant moms who did not know the importance of tracking fetal movement in the third trimester. They find us too late, after losing a child.”
While you can start counting kicks anytime during pregnancy, it’s recommended to start at the beginning of the third trimester. The third trimester generally starts at 28 weeks (26 weeks for a high-risk pregnancy, or when pregnant with twins).
Lots of things can restrict or change a baby’s movements. That’s why it’s so important to see your doctor immediately if there is a change in the frequency of kicks. Even if the kicks are weaker than normal, it may be a sign something is wrong, says Price.
There may be a leak or rupture in the amniotic sac that surrounds the baby. There may be a tear in the placenta. Or, the umbilical cord may become kinked or twisted, or wrapped around a baby’s neck.
“One thing is for sure, the sooner you have it checked out, the better, for everyone,” says Price.
The convenience of an app makes kick-counting easy
- Download the free Count the Kicks app, available in the Google Play or iTunes stores.
- Count the kicks every day, preferably at the same time.
- Pick your time based on when your baby is usually active.
- To get started, sit with your feet up or lie on your side. Count each of your baby’s movements as one kick. Tap the footprint symbol on the app until you reach 10 movements. After a few days, you will begin to see a pattern of movement (how long it takes you to get to 10).
- Most of the time it will take less than a half hour.
- Your kick-counting history can be useful for visits with your doctor.
- The app will record the amount of time it took to get 10 movements each day, or you can log your times into a chart found at CountTheKicks.org External Site.
- If you notice a change in what is normal for your baby, contact your provider immediately.
The Count the Kicks app is downloaded more than 3,000 times per month.
The history of Count the Kicks
The science behind the Count the Kicks program was founded in 2008 by five Iowa women, all who suffered the loss of daughters to stillbirth or infant death.
They channeled their grief into a goal: To prevent unexpected birth complications and late-term stillbirths.
The women learned about a public health program in Norway that reduced one hospital system’s stillbirth rate by 33 percent. The campaign taught pregnant women how to monitor fetal movement during the third trimester of pregnancy. Since that time, several studies have recognized the power of kick counting, or keeping a daily record of baby’s movements.
“A change in the number of kicks, or the strength of kicks, may be the first, earliest, and possibly, the only indication that something is wrong,” says Price.
Many doctors recommend kick counting as a way to monitor a baby’s health in the third trimester. In fact, most maternal health providers in Iowa have used Count the Kicks materials in their office, according to Price.
Count the Kicks success
In the first five years of Count the Kicks (2008–2013), the Iowa stillborn rate decreased by 26 percent, while the rest of the country’s rates remained steady.
Iowa went from the 33rd worst stillbirth rate to third lowest in the country.
“If we can decrease the entire country’s stillbirth rate by 26 percent, as we’ve done in Iowa, we can save more than 6,000 babies every year. That is 6,000 families who can be spared the heartache of losing a child.”
Emily Price, Executive Director, Healthy Birth Day, Inc., and Count the Kicks
“Let your doctor decide if you have anything to worry about.”
That’s the advice given by Jennifer McCune’s doctor 10 years ago, when McCune was pregnant with her son, Danny. At 37 weeks, McCune took that advice to heart. After dinner one evening, she sat down to do a kick count.
“It was normally an active time for the baby. I sat for an hour, and the baby only moved once. I had an appointment in the morning. I didn’t want to bother my obstetrician. I was sure it was nothing,” says McCune.
Remembering her doctor’s orders though, McCune decided to call anyway. Shortly after, she was at the hospital being monitored.
“Still, the baby wouldn’t move. I laid on my side, drank juice, and they sent a small sound shock to my belly. Still, no movement. They ordered a biophysical profile, which is much like an ultrasound, and looks at certain markers. Results showed the baby was in distress. They prepared for an emergency C-section.
Upon delivery, they discovered the cord was wrapped around Danny’s neck four times.
“I almost didn’t call my doctor that night. But, if I hadn’t called, Danny might not be here today,” says McCune.
Today, McCune is the South Dakota ambassador for Count the Kicks. “We need to get the word out to all pregnant mothers. Danny is living proof that Count the Kicks works.”
Assistance for pregnant mothers
Expecting mothers get extra support through Wellmark's Pregnancy Care Program. Benefits include:
- Access to a toll-free pregnancy support number. Hours are 8:30 a.m. – 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. Obstetrical nurses can help you with pregnancy-related questions and concerns. Just call 866-460-9742.
- Educational materials based on your individual needs.
- Regular nurse outreach based on your risk level.
If you have questions about the program, call the number above or talk to your employer.
This program may not be available to some employer-sponsored health plans. To determine your eligibility, talk to your employer’s human resources department.
Register now for the millennial pregnancy webinar
Millennial women make up 85 percent of all pregnancies, and while most will experience a healthy pregnancy, recent data from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association shows this generation is experiencing some of the highest increases in health conditions that could lead to higher risks of pregnancy and childbirth complications External Site.
Because of this, Count the Kicks and Wellmark are partnering to provide the Millennial Health and Pregnancy webinar on Tuesday, March 9, 2021, from 12–1 p.m. (CST). The webinar is free and open to all. If you're interested, register now External Site.