The statistics are staggering. 2.6 million stillbirths occur every year; the cause of many of them remains unknown. In fact, only around 5% of those had a congenital abnormality. In the UK, one in every 200 babies born will be born sleeping. In the UK, 17 babies are born sleeping every single day. In the UK, one third of these stillbirths are unexplained.
A national Danish guideline in 2009 recommended that women are induced ensuring delivery before 42 weeks. These are the guidelines that the UK stick to. In my case, even that was too long. I was 41 weeks and five days when Beatrice was born. Sleeping. Many studies are suggesting that more scans should be done and I have been assured that, as and when we choose to have another baby, I will get to have a scan every month. Last time that would've made absolutely no difference. There is no obvious reason as to why my baby died - my pregnancy was textbook perfect - but, to ensure that this doesn't happen with my next baby, I will be given the option to be induced at 37 weeks.
If inducing me at 37 weeks is safe and reduces the risk of stillbirth - something that is not uncommon - why wasn't this discussed with me last time?!
This is a question many are asking. Early induction is a conclusion that many studies are reaching to reduce stillbirth and the pros and cons are being heavily discussed and debated. It is being proposed that pregnant women should be induced at some point after 37 weeks and, to be honest, I'd like to suggest that this is something offered to all pregnant women, not just those who have had to go through the trauma of their child dying. I know it isn't quite that simple though. Allowing the body to go into labour naturally is the best thing for the mother and the baby... When everything goes to plan...
I'd like to think that I won't let my previous experiences taint my decision- last time, my birth plan was to do everything as naturally as possible and I loved the excitement of not knowing when labour would start- but I will definitely be opting for early induction next time because I'm terrified. In hindsight, I think that if I'd've known how high the risk of stillbirth was and had been told I could be induced, not even early but, on my due date or even seven days overdue, I would've certainly considered it. It is hard to know for sure what I would've done but it seems impossible to disagree with the fact that if the recommended induction period was bought forward, even by just one week, we'd see a significant reduction in stillbirths.
I'd have Beatrice here with me now, for instance. So there's one right away.
It is so so hard to know what to do and what is right. Thankfully, the government is spending a lot of time, money and resources on research so hopefully this will give us some guidance as to best practise.
What is most upsetting for me with this debate though is the narrow minded and hurtful responses and comments on articles from people who have never been so unfortunate as to lose a child. Some have obviously been through a different kind of trauma to the one I have experienced but, whilst I can appreciate that, I can't help feeling anger towards people who moan about a difficult birth and want to stop women from being educated about the risks of not being induced because they had it tough when they were. I read the way people are expressing their negative opinions of inductions: they're so stupid and selfish. I know I'm very emotionally invested here but I can categorically state that the potential alternative is whole lot worse...
How can it be dangerous to go full term if it's the way the body naturally gives birth? If it was dangerous, we would have evolved to give birth earlier. With today's level of focus on nutrition, babies are a lot bigger when born and at less of a risk of being born early. With today's advanced medical practises and knowledge, babies as young as 24 weeks are able to survive outside the womb. It is unnecessary, when stillbirths are halved (as many studies have found) by inducing at 37 weeks, to allow women to go two weeks overdue. Medical advancements have obviously moved a lot quicker than evolution.
There are risks with being induced, like higher c-section rates. Yeah, I used to worry about that too. And then your baby dies and you wish you'd had the opportunity to have a c-section and be wheeled out of hospital holding your baby rather than walking out with a box of 'memories'.
I think we have to accept that sometimes it just happens and no matter what we do, not everyone is going to make it. We also don't know what would happen if they did survive the birth and how this would affect the numbers of sudden infant death syndrome or if more babies would be born disabled in some way. Yes, seriously. Someone actually wrote that. I'd like to suggest that we take a chance on reducing the number of stillbirths regardless of whether or not some babies are 'destined' not to make it. Let's just give it a go eh? Let's just try and save 17 families a day from having their entire world shattered. And then let's just see what saving all those lives does to other statistics and then we can move on to cracking any other 'problem' that arises.
Induction is invasive. I got news for you kids, there isn't much about labour that isn't.
I've not been the victim of medical intervention that has ruined 'the perfect labour' or damaged me physcially. A lot of women who are against early induction have been and I can only imagine how difficult that is. I don't want to take anything away from women who have been through a traumatic birth; I know women who have and I know it's hard. When it comes to this debate, I feel it is the responsibility of all women who have experienced stillbirth and/or induction to let others know the risks. I had a perfect labour though and then I didn't get to take my baby home with me; I know what I'd prefer...
You can't argue with the facts. In Denmark, by increasing the number of early inductions they now have the lowest rate of stillbirth ever recorded. This has been obtained with no increase in surgical intervention (which dispels the 'increased c-section' worry).
Regardless, I personally think everyone needs to sack off this idea of having a lovely labour and just focus on getting our babies here safely. Plan all you like- I know I did- but chances are, it isn't going to happen as you planned anyway. My labour was really important to me and, although I didn't get the water birth and labour I originally wanted or planned for, it was still amazing.
What the hell does any of that matter though if your baby has died?!
It's so easy for me to say this now but, seriously, get off your high horses and get your priorities straight.