October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month

Upclose photograph of a statue of a grieving woman with her eyes closed, looking downward.
This statue of a grieving mother sits in the Star Garden Cemetery, reserved for babies who died before they had a chance to live.

by Kimberly J

For women who know they’re pregnant, about 15 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage.1 About one pregnancy in 100 after 20 weeks of pregnancy is affected by stillbirth, and each year about 24,000 babies are stillborn in the United States.2 In 2018, the infant mortality rate in the United States was 5.7 deaths per 1,000 live births.3

Loss affects approximately 1 in 4 known pregnancies. Which means if it hasn’t happened to you, it has happened to someone you know. Yet, this subject is often surrounded by silence. That silence is isolating and discouraging. Not knowing what to say or what to do are the most common reactions when someone you know or love is experiencing this kind of loss, but silence is not the answer. Absence of support and acknowledgment can compound the grief and loss felt after such an event.

If you have experienced this type of loss, I am so sorry. After my losses, I started a journal of sorts and labeled it, “Things to Help?” In compiling the resources listed, I kept that thought in mind. Below is a list of materials and resources to hopefully help anyone experiencing such a loss (and those who love them) break the stigma of silence and shame. I hope these resources aid you in processing and working through the grief you may be struggling with. Sometimes, just knowing you are not alone can be of comfort.

“When a child loses his parent, they are called an orphan. When a spouse loses her or his partner, they are called a widow or widower. When parents lose their child, there isn’t a word to describe them. This month recognizes the loss so many parents experience across the United States and around the world. It is also meant to inform and provide resources for parents who have lost children due to miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, molar pregnancy, stillbirths, birth defects, SIDS, and other causes.

– RONALD REAGAN, 1988
DECLARING OCTOBER PREGNANCY & INFANT LOSS AWARENESS MONTH.

Local Resources – Central Maryland

Rising Hope Perinatal Hospice & Bereavement Program: at Howard County General Hospital – This program is free of charge and offers support during and after pregnancy. They offer emotional and practical support as well as referrals to support groups, therapists, and funeral directors. Contact: Amanda Meneses, 410-884-4709, adeane3@jhmi.edu – View their brochure by clicking HERE

Springboard Community Services: (formerly Family & Children Services of Central Maryland) is a local nonprofit that aims to make mental health services available to all. They provide social services including counseling and group therapy. Their website is www.springboardmd.org

Stillborn and Infant Loss Support (SAILS Maryland): This is a newer group supporting central Maryland families and run by Sadija Smiley, who has experienced loss herself. This group seeks to help those who have experienced a loss feel less alone. On their website, bornintosilence.org, they have compiled a list of national resources and created a remembrance wall to acknowledge lost babies.

Dear Mama: Hosted by HCLS (Sponsored by Friends and Foundation of Howard County Library System and The Women’s Giving Circle of Howard County. In partnership with Worcester County Library). This is a thematic multimedia exhibit depicting pregnancy and motherhood through the eyes of emerging artists of African descent. The aim is to create for the viewer emotional resonance as well as understanding of the health disparities impacting women of color. Join us for a day of dialogue and healing as we discuss the physical and emotional health of black mothers and mothers to be. This event will take place online on October 24th from 10am – 2pm. Register here.

Statewide and National Resources

MIS (Miscarriage, Infant Death, and Stillbirth) Share: This parent-led support group currently meets virtually to offer information, support, and comfort to parents at any stage of the grieving process. Specialized support groups are available throughout the DMV area. Find a brochure about their services by clicking here. Their website is www.misshare.org

Center for Infant & Child Loss: The Center is run by the University of Maryland Department of Pediatrics and is committed to increasing the understanding of sudden infant and child death, risk reduction practices, grief, and compassionate intervention. Contact: 800-808-7437. Their website is infantandchildloss.org

The Compassionate Friends: This is a national group offering peer-led support for bereaved parents, siblings, and grandparents who have experienced the death of a child of any age. Call the national office: 877-969-0010 or visit the website for local chapter information: www.compassionatefriends.org

Star Legacy Foundation – Maryland Chapter: This group seeks to decrease stillbirth rates through education and fundraising for research. They are also a resource for grieving families, who can call 952-715-7731 (ext. 1) to speak to a grief counselor. In addition, The Star Legacy Foundation coordinates volunteer efforts to make a difference locally with bereavement care packages and training for hospital staff. The Maryland chapter website and contact information can be found here.

MARYLAND CRISIS HOTLINE: 1-800-422-0009: This statewide 24 hour intervention and supportive counseling hotline is for depression, suicide, loneliness, family and relationship problems, shelter needs, violent or threatening domestic situations, chemical dependency issues and others.

Online Resources

  • CDC STILLBIRTH RESOURCES: The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has compiled resources for information and scientific articles regarding stillbirth. Also featured on this site are stillbirth stories from volunteer contributors. Visit the website here. Trigger Warning: The “Family Stories” section contains photos of deceased children.
  • Glow in the Woods: This site hosts online forums and archives “for babylost mothers and fathers.” The forums are labeled to help visitors avoid triggers for those that want to share, but are still sensitive to hearing about others who are trying to conceive (TTC) post-loss. The archives are filtered by category, allowing you to find narratives where the experiences/feelings mirror your own. Subjects in the archives range from depression, anger, and guilt to intimacy, memorials, and family. The website is glowinthewoods.com.
  • INSTAGRAM:
    • @LoveCommaDad – This account consists of a series of videos from a stillbirth and miscarriage father who shares loss stories and advice from other baby-loss dads in their own words to offer support for one another.
    • @RefugeInGrief – Most posts on this account feature the hastag #perfectlynormal – letting you know that whatever you’re feeling, this reaction is a normal part of the grieving process. This shared grief experience can be helpful, though infant/pregnancy loss is not specifically mentioned. Run by Megan Devine, author of It’s ok that you’re not ok : meeting grief and loss in a culture that doesn’t understand
    • @Miscarriage.Stories – Part of the nonprofit Managing Miscarriage, this account offers a place for sharing miscarriage stories. This account encourages submissions from followers in order to break free from the isolation and silence that usually accompanies miscarriage.
  • PODCASTS:
    • Stillbirth Matters! -from the Star Legacy Foundation – there are currently 30 episodes, mainly interviews with medical professionals, fathers, and mothers. The focus is mainly on stillbirth and infant loss stories. However, several episodes speak directly to infertility and pregnancy loss
    • Managing Miscarriage – this community-sourced podcast provides a forum for women to share their stories. It highlights narratives from women who have experienced miscarriage as well as expert perspectives from doctors. There are currently 76 episodes.
    • Sisters in Loss spotlights faith filled black women who share their grief and pregnancy loss stories. According to the NIH, black women are twice as likely to experience late miscarriage and stillbirth than white women. New episodes weekly; episodes include resources and strategies to heal and find a path forward after loss.

The content provided is for informational purposes only; it is not intended to be used instead of professional medical opinion or advice. All information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only.

Kimberly J is a DIY Instructor and Research Specialist at the HCLS Elkridge Branch. She is the mother to 2 living sons and 2 stillborn sons.

1. “Miscarriage (also called early pregnancy loss) is when a baby dies in the womb (uterus) before 20 weeks of pregnancy. For women who know they’re pregnant, about 10 to 15 in 100 pregnancies (10 to 15 percent) end in miscarriage. Most miscarriages happen in the first trimester before the 12th week of pregnancy. Miscarriage in the second trimester (between 13 and 19 weeks) happens in 1 to 5 in 100 (1 to 5 percent) pregnancies. As many as half of all pregnancies may end in miscarriage. We don’t know the exact number because a miscarriage may happen before a woman knows she’s pregnant. Most women who miscarry go on to have a healthy pregnancy later.” Source: March of Dimes

2. “Stillbirth affects about 1 in 160 births, and each year about 24,000 babies are stillborn in the United States. That is about the same number of babies that die during the first year of life and it is more than 10 times as many deaths as the number that occur from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).” Source: CDC

3. “Infant mortality is the death of an infant before his or her first birthday. In 2018, the infant mortality rate in the United States was 5.7 deaths per 1,000 live births.” Source: CDC

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