About 1 percent of U.S. pregnancies end in stillbirths. Social media has given grieving parents a new outlet.
[Tulsa World, 2/25/19] Of all the little moments of joy and strife that fill the top-nominated Oscar film “Roma,” the most gut-wrenching takes place in a Mexico City hospital room, where a doctor coolly tells a frightened young woman, “Your baby was born dead.”
The haunting scene, set in 1971, graphically introduces a subject that today is still poorly understood and often avoided. While global rates have declined since then, stillbirths remain surprisingly common with nearly 3 million each year, most in developing countries.
The U.S. rate, 6 in 1,000 births, hasn’t budged in a decade and the cause is unknown in at least one-third of cases. Most U.S. insurers don’t cover autopsies and many parents don’t want them, often leaving circumstances and potential causes a mystery.
“This is a really seriously understudied area of research,” said Jennita Reefhuis of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “It’s such a devastating event to happen to a couple. This is something that deserves more attention.”
THEN & NOW
The young mother in Roma is given just a few seconds to hold her lifeless child before a doctor tells her he must take and “prepare” the body. From her hospital bed a few feet away, she watches silently as the infant is wrapped up in a white shroud.
The coldness of that lingering scene is partly dramatic flourish, but it also reflects thinking at the time that stillbirths were almost to be dismissed. Dr. Francisco Ruiloba, an obstetrician from Mexico City, said many hospitals in Mexico, and elsewhere, have since adopted a more humanistic approach. In his practice, Ruiloba said, mothers are given as much time as they need and the body is prepared “with respect and out of the room.”
In 2009 guidance reaffirmed last month, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says emotional support should be offered to parents of stillborns, including referrals to grief counselors, support groups or therapists. Parents should have the chance to hold and to name their infants, and to say goodbye, the group advises……..
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