Scott and I were married in October 2013 and we thrilled to discover that we were pregnant upon returning from our honeymoon. Getting pregnant came easily to us. We felt very fortunate.
Our excitement soon turned to devastation when we received the results of our 12 week scan & blood test. A very low Papp-A protein in my blood was associated with poor placenta function and a significantly increased risk of chromosomal abnormalities in our baby. We were given a 1 in 2 chance of our baby having Down Syndrome and a significantly increased risk for a range of other abnormalities.
We elected to undergo a CVS (chorionic villus sampling) which in itself has a risk of miscarriage. This procedure would take a sample of cells from my amniotic fluid which could be grown and tested to determine if any chromosomal abnormalities were present. It was a long 2 week wait from the procedure to receiving the results. Fortunately the results showed that our baby did not have any chromosomal abnormalities, including Down Syndrome. This was fabulous news, however, our pregnancy was not in the clear.
We were placed in the ‘maternal fetal medicine’ program at the Women’s and Children’s hospital for high risk pregnancies. The low Papp-A protein in my blood put our baby at high risk of miscarriage, still birth & interuterine growth restriction. If an adverse outcome was to occur, it would likely occur in the 3rd trimester. We sailed through the 2nd trimester with ease with the dark cloud looming that the 3rd trimester might bring adverse outcomes for us.
We were offered regular ultrasounds at the Women’s & Children’s hospital during out 3rd trimester to monitor fetal growth. As predicted the growth of our baby had stated to drop off. Our baby was on the 5th percentile for growth. After 5 fortnightly scans, at our 35 week scan the obstetrician said that there would be no need for further scans as the baby is almost at term.
We were so used to fortnightly scans to check our babies, heart beat, growth & development. To be told that we would not have any more scan after 35 weeks was worrying for us. I liked attending the ultrasounds as it gave me piece of mind that our baby was doing well. I asked the obstetrician ‘what now?’. Should I just go home & wait? I felt helpless. Our baby was at high risk of miscarriage & stillbirth, I was not keen to simply sit at home without any monitoring. The obstetrician suggested that I do ‘kick counting’ as a way of monitoring fetal movement.
I hadn’t heard of kick counting. None of my girlfriends who’d had babies had mentioned this to me among the plethora of advice that had been thrown my way. I quickly did some research on this on the internet and found that it appears to be more common place in the US than here in Australia. I was moved by stories of women who did kick counting & appeared to have avoided adverse outcomes by seeking medical help early when they noticed a reduction in the movement of their babies.
I downloaded a ‘kick counting’ app on my smartphone at the 35 week mark and religiously did my kick counting every evening after dinner. I drank a glass of chilled orange juice (apparently babies like cold, sweet drinks) and lay down on the couch to do the count.
My husband and I loved the kick counting time. He’d often sit with me watching my belly for movement or hold my smartphone and log the kicks for me. The kick counting gave me confidence that my baby was well. I felt empowered and in control.
On Sunday the 13th of July, at 38 weeks pregnant and just 3 hours after completing my daily kick count, I went into labour naturally. Our little girl, Elsie Ann, was born the next day, healthy but petite as expected.
Upon sharing my pregnancy story with friends and family, I am amazed at how few people have heard of ‘kick counting’. Was I only informed about it because I was in the specialist ‘high risk’ pregnancy program at the Women’s & Children’s Hospital? Despite being given piles of pamphlets and information sheets during my pregnancy, why was I not given any written information on ‘kick counting’? Why was ‘kick counting’ not mentioned at my antenatal class among the copious information about SIDS? How many babies could have been saved if ‘kick counting’ was more commonplace?
I feel strongly that ‘kick counting’ contributed to the safe arrival of my daughter, Elsie who was at high risk of miscarriage and stillbirth. Thank you to Still Aware for leading the stillbirth & kick-counting public awareness campaign, which I’m sure is already contributing to more positive pregnancy outcomes for Australians.