Exploring a new use for the Count the Kicks app through fellow connections

Dec 2, 2019

In one week this fall our office was buzzing as three Iowa moms sent us their personal stories of how they saved their babies by using Count the Kicks.

Three Iowa moms. Three amazing stories about tracking movement, listening to their babies, trusting their instincts, and contacting their providers to get checked out. Three babies here and healthy—and we learned about them all in one week.

The statistics back up the stories. The Iowa Department of Public Health recently finalized its 2018 vital statistics and we are thrilled to share that Iowa's stillbirth rate has reached an all-time low. In the first decade of Count the Kicks in Iowa, our state has seen a nearly 32 percent reduction in our stillbirth rate.

What does this mean in real numbers?

In 2008 when Count the Kicks first began, Iowa lost 231 babies to stillbirth. In 2018, we lost 148 babies—a difference of 83 babies year to year. We are thrilled to see the progress each year and to know more families are holding their babies and will get to watch them grow.

Iowa’s progress happened while the country’s stillbirth rate has remained relatively stagnant, according to the CDC. Count the Kicks has helped bring systemic change to Iowa when it comes to stillbirth prevention, and this is illustrated when moms write to tell us their babies were saved in part because of our campaign and diligent providers.

“The doctors told me that I saved his life by coming in and getting checked out. I will forever be thankful that I was informed about Count the Kicks because it saved his life and made me a mom.”

—Taylor B., Skyler’s Mom (family featured in image above)

Educated and empowered moms are key to saving babies. Through our work with Mid-Iowa Health Foundation and the fellowship, we are now exploring a new frontier in our work. As we become aware of the powerful work of Iowa ACES 360 and a pilot at Broadlawns in conjunction with EveryStep, we want to study whether our stillbirth prevention tools, like the free Count the Kicks app, can play a role in reducing adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).

Recent research has shown that toxic stress can and should be addressed prenatally. According to Harvard University, Center on the Developing Child, “We can reduce the effects of ACEs and toxic stress by reducing the sources of stress in people’s lives. This can happen by helping to meet their basic needs or providing other services.”

Supported by two HealthConnect Fellows, the pilot project at Broadlawns is assessing pregnant mothers for signs of stress. If a mother identifies stressors, such as financial concerns, a lack of help, or difficulty in accessing housing or food, a health care provider refers the mother to EveryStep's community coordinator who helps connect the mom to local resources and support.

As we look to the future of Count the Kicks, we will be identifying ways our tools and resources may not only help prevent stillbirths, but could be part of a strategy that can help reduce environments of toxic stress for baby and mom. For instance, our free kick counting app is already a great way for mom to bond with baby before he or she arrives. Could this early bond help reduce ACEs? Could additional messaging within the app that addresses toxic stress help improve birth outcomes? It is questions like these we look forward to addressing during this Fellowship.

We’re grateful that the past 10 years in Iowa have shown proven success in saving babies, and we look forward to seeing what’s possible for Count the Kicks in the U.S. and beyond over the next 10 years.

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