October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month and SIDS Awareness Month
Autumn leaves are falling…pumpkin spice is in the air and in the coffee and the cereal and everything you can think of. People are planning Halloween parties and fall festivals and many are going to buy pumpkins at the local pumpkin patch. October has some fun traditions and events going on as the season changes and the leaves turn colors.
There is also a melancholy feel that can hit as the air turns cold and we watch the leaves falling. We understand that winter will be upon us soon. For those who have lost little ones, seeing families buying Halloween costumes, riding the train at a pumpkin patch, carving jack-o-lanterns, and planning parties often reminds them of the dreams they will never share with a child that passed away. There is a grief in the air as we head from October into the holiday months of November and December. Maybe that is why October was chosen to represent both Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness and SIDs Awareness.
Pregnancy and Infant loss is more common than many realize.
Pregnancy Loss: According to the Center for Disease Control, 24,000 infants are stillborn each year. A stillbirth is the death of an infant (greater than 20 weeks into the pregnancy) before or during birth. Earlier then 20 weeks in a pregnancy, losing the baby is called a miscarriage. An article in Time Health stated that close to 30% of pregnancies end in miscarriage. The statistics are quite shocking. The article went on to suggest that many people feel very alone and guilty when they have a miscarriage. They don’t understand the large number of parents also struggling with the same type of loss they are going through.
Infant Loss: Infant loss occurs after birth up to one year. There are many causes of infant death including accidents, congenital birth defects, physical abuse, and something called SUID (or sudden unexpected infant death.) In 2015 there were 3,700 SUID deaths in the United States. Common causes of SUID are accidental suffocation by soft bedding, overlay (when a person accidentally rolls on top of baby during sleep), wedging or entrapment (baby gets stuck between two objects such as mattress and wall), and strangulation (such as when a baby gets his or her head stuck between the rails of the crib.) The most common type of SUID is SIDS(sudden infant death syndrome). About 1,600 deaths from SIDS were documented in 2015. Infant deaths from SIDS can’t be explained even after an investigation is complete. No cause is ever determined.
Why is awareness important?
Why should we care? We care because the high numbers associated with pregnancy and infant loss mean that you will at some point come in contact with a person (a friend, relative, co-worker or even yourself) who has lost a baby. The pain from the loss is heartbreaking. It isn’t something they can get over in a few weeks. The loss of a child even as an infant or unborn baby is known to be one of the hardest losses to cope with. Awareness helps people understand they are not alone and encourages a community to rally around hurting parents with care and support as they grieve their loss. Awareness helps us to know what words to say and what not to say following such a tragic event. Awareness also reminds us a parent will still grieve the loss 5, 10, and even 20 years later. Lighting a candle in honor of an infant, sending a card, or just giving a hug and saying you remember the life that was here for such a short time are all appreciated.
Remember it isn’t just the parents who are hurting. There are often siblings, grandparents and other relatives grieving the loss. If a baby has passed and the siblings are aware of the loss, they also need help sorting through their feelings and processing the death. If they were not aware of a pregnancy loss, they may see others around them crying and need help understanding why everyone is sad. Take the time to include them in the family grieving traditions.
A Few Resources
Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep Group that offers free photographs of stillborn infants
Online Grief Support Forums A message board allowing you to find others going through a similar loss and share your grief with people who understand.
My Forever Child Online resources for infant and pregnancy loss.
As you enjoy this fall season, take a moment to remember those grieving a loss and find a way to say you remember and you care.