LEXINGTON — Feeling your little one wiggle around in the womb can offer more than a sweet bonding opportunity.
Tracking baby movements during the third trimester of pregnancy is important because a change in movement is often the earliest sign of distress in a baby, said Kari Davis, the first Count the Kicks ambassador for the state of Ohio.
“When moms know what’s normal for their baby, they can be more alert to potential red flags,” the Lexington resident said.
Davis, 41, became involved in Count the Kicks — a stillbirth prevention public health campaign that started in Iowa — after the loss of her daughter, Harper, who was stillborn at 39-and-a-half weeks in March 2013.
“It was three days before my due date, and I found out that she didn’t have a heartbeat,” she said. “My husband (Marc) and I were completely devastated. It was very unexpected, and we didn’t really know anybody who had a stillbirth before.”
Sadly, stillbirth, which is defined as the death of a baby before or during delivery, is more common than Davis had realized. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stillbirth affects about 1 in 100 pregnancies, and each year about 24,000 babies are stillborn in the United States.
“During the time that I was pregnant, it wasn’t talked about a whole lot, so I wanted to change that,” she said.
While researching about stillbirth, Davis discovered the Count the Kicks campaign that was started in 2008 by five Iowa moms who had lost a daughter to stillbirth or infant death.
“One of the things that really interested me was the Iowa stillbirth rate had dropped by 26 percent since the start of the program, and they were the only state in the United States that was seeing a decrease in stillbirth rates,” Davis said.
Davis reached out to the organizers, sharing her interest in bringing the program to Ohio. In October of 2013, she was invited to become the Ohio ambassador for Count the Kicks.
Over the last six years, she’s worked to raise public awareness on this health issue, with support from OhioHealth, among other local organizations and agencies.
Her ultimate goal has been to grow the Count the Kicks program statewide. She was pleased to see the state health department endorse the program earlier this year and start offering free Count the Kicks resources to expectant moms and healthcare providers.
DaShonda LaTrese Watkins, of Cincinnati, has joined Davis in promoting the Count the Kicks campaign as Ohio’s second ambassador.
To learn more on how to help support the Count the Kicks program by donating, fundraising or volunteering, click here.
The how-to’s of counting kicks
Moms are encouraged to start counting kicks during their third trimester of pregnancy, starting at 28 weeks of gestation (26 weeks if the pregnancy is high risk or involves multiples).
The method is simple: pick a time of day when the baby is typically active and count the movements, which could include kicks, rolls, punches or jabs (not hiccups, as these are involuntary). Monitor how long it takes to reach 10 movements. Ideally, you want to feel at least 10 movements within two hours.
Your kick-counting history can be useful for visits with your provider. By counting your baby’s kicks every day, you will know what’s a normal movement pattern for your baby.
“Every baby is unique and different, and every pregnancy is unique and different, so what’s normal for one baby may not be normal for another,” Davis noted.
If you notice a change in what is normal for your baby, contact your provider immediately.
The Count the Kicks’ website used this as an example: “If you normally count 10 movements within 30 minutes and then you notice that it is taking two hours to record 10 movements, that is a change in your baby’s movement pattern.”
“We don’t want moms to wait,” Davis said. “We want moms to contact their providers immediately if they notice a change. Sooner than later is always better.”
Davis used the Count the Kicks app during her pregnancies with her son Colton, 5, and son, Bryson, 3. She said it helped give her peace of mind.
“Rather than being super anxious, it actually decreased my anxiety,” she said.
Not only that, but it can be empowering to track the baby’s movements, she said — and potentially life-saving. The Count the Kicks’ website has many stories of families who have happy, healthy babies thanks to Count the Kicks.
"The best advice I can give is to keep counting those kicks, follow your intuition, and never feel silly calling your doctor and getting things checked out,” one mom wrote.