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My resolve to help prevent stillbirth from happening to other families led me to become the Arizona Ambassador for a national public
awareness campaign called Count the Kicks which was founded by 5 Iowa moms that had all lost daughters to stillbirth or infant death.
There are now 18 ambassadors throughout the country bringing this life-saving message to our home states. Count the Kicks is modeled
after a study in Norway where fetal monitoring was made a standard of care resulting in a 1/3 reduction of stillbirth in just a few short
years. Since the 2009 launch of Count the Kicks in Iowa, the stillbirth rate in Iowa has been reduced by almost 30%! Per the Center for
Disease Control, Iowa is also now the leading state for a decline in stillbirth.
The message is simple and goes as such: pick a time every day that your baby is most active, get 10 movements in two hours and log your
baby’s kicks, punches and rolls. Hiccups don’t count! If you notice a change in your baby’s movements, call your provider
immediately. We also have a wonderful, free Count the Kicks app that women can download which helps make it easy and fun to keep
track every day. In my work as an ambassador, I have shared this life-saving message with expectant moms and will sometimes be told
“Oh, my baby moves all the time.” So did mine. So did the babies of other stillbirth mommas that I know. Until one day, they just
didn’t move as much. This is why counting kicks is important to do on a daily basis, so a mom can be aware of any changes and call her
provider right away.
Count the Kicks to Save Lives
By Shawn Soumilas
On July 3rd, 2010 my life changed forever when my youngest son Zach died during
birth. Instead of planning a 6th birthday party like I should be this year, I am putting
pen to paper in hopes of spreading a message that would have saved my son’s life.
Counting your baby’s kicks in the 3rd trimester is crucial in reducing the risk of
stillbirth. It is just as important as taking a prenatal vitamin and regular OB visits.
One myth about babies is that they will slow down before birth. This is not true. They
will not slow down. They will not stop moving. Two days before Zach died, I noticed
he wasn’t moving as much. When I called my doctor, I was told that he was just
“settling down for birth”. After his death, I was shocked to learn that decreased fetal
movement in the third trimester is linked to a fourfold chance of stillbirth according to
Neonatology Today. How did I not know about this? I had gone through two full-
term pregnancies and had never been told about the importance of tracking my baby’s
movements every day in the third trimester. I decided then and there to do something
about the lack of awareness. I will never forget what it felt like to leave the hospital without Zach in my arms. I walked out of that
hospital with a piece of my heart gone forever.
Baby save stories are pouring in from all over the country as our message spreads. Our Florida Ambassador,
Sarah, can attest to what Count the Kicks did for her. This is her son Ryan. Ryan is Sarah’s third child and the first
pregnancy that she had been told about Count the Kicks. At 37 weeks Ryan’s mom noticed a slight reduction in
his movements. She followed up with her doctor immediately and Ryan was born that afternoon with a true knot
in his umbilical cord. Count the Kicks saved Ryan’s life and Sarah feels it is important to spread her story and the
message that kick counting is something every expectant mom should do.
Every baby save story makes me so proud of Zach and the important work that is happening because of babies like him. While Zach’s
death is my greatest heartbreak, being his mother and helping others in his honor is my greatest purpose.
Shawn Soumilas is a part time student who lives with her family in
Prescott, Arizona. Shawn has been married to her husband, Theo,
for ten years and they have two children, Ian and Zach. Shawn is the
Arizona Ambassador for Healthy Birth Day, a 501(c) 3 non-profit
organization that created the public awareness campaign Count the
Kicks, aimed at preventing stillbirth. You can connect with Shawn
on Twitter andFacebook. You can also connect with Count the
Kicks on Facebook and Twitter.