October is pregnancy and infant loss awareness month. Since 1988, when President Ronald Reagan recognized it, October has been a time for people to remember the babies they have lost and rally for better treatment of mothers and infants.

In his proclamation, President Reagan said,

“Each year, approximately a million pregnancies in the United States end in miscarriage, stillbirth, or the death of the newborn child. National observance of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, 1988, offers us the opportunity to increase our understanding of the great tragedy involved in the deaths of unborn and newborn babies. It also enables us to consider how, as individuals and communities, we can meet the needs of bereaved parents and family members and work to prevent causes of these problems.”

Furthermore, it’s a great time to share statistics to help mothers experiencing pregnancy or infant loss that they are not alone. Many times miscarriage is not talked about. People tell you not to announce a pregnancy till the second trimester. Sometimes that leaves people feeling very alone if they miscarry during the first trimester, when most miscarriages occur. Part of the advocacy of this month is raising awareness of how common pregnancy and infant loss are. During this month, resources are shared for people experiencing this. 

Whether you have experienced this firsthand or not, you likely know someone that has or will experience it in the future. The important thing to know is that you are not alone. Here are five statistics to keep in mind during this month. 

Each year, about 24,000 babies are stillborn in the U.S. 

A stillbirth is defined as the birth of an infant that has died in the womb or dies during delivery. Usually, a stillbirth occurs after 20 weeks. Before 20 weeks, it is considered a miscarriage. It is estimated that around 24,00 babies are stillborn in the US each year, for various reasons. Parents experiencing a stillbirth often feel alone and isolated, especially in maternity wards that are bustling with new life. It’s important to understand that this is more common than they might think. Allow these parents to mourn their children like any other parent would. 

1,400 babies died from SIDS in the U.S. in 2017

SIDS, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, results in the unexpected death of an infant under a year old. The cause of SIDS can vary. Inevitably, parents grieve and often feel guilty, though doctors say most cases of SIDS occur despite the best parenting. Yes, sleeping arrangements can play a role in SIDS, but often times unknown illnesses can as well. According to the CDC, in 2017, there were 1400 deaths from SIDS, 1300 from unknown causes, and around 900 from accidental suffocation or strangulation in bed. 

Anywhere from 10-25%  of pregnancies end in miscarriage, though the number may be much higher

Because of the tendency I mentioned before to not announce pregnancies until the second trimester, many miscarriages are unreported and unknown to scientists studying this. Anywhere from 10 to 25% of pregnancies end with a miscarriage, according to various studies, though because most miscarriages occur early in pregnancy, sometimes even before a woman knows she pregnant, the number is hard to estimate. There has long been a cultural taboo around miscarriage. This has made women experiencing it feel isolated and alone. Months like this are working to foster a great community support system for women experiencing miscarriage. 

An estimated 50% of miscarriages occur because of chromosomal issues

As you might imagine, miscarriages can occur for a number of reasons. While many women may feel guilt associated with it, it’s important to note that in the vast number of miscarriages, a chromosomal defect or some other issue that the mother had no control over is to blame. Some estimate that up to half of all miscarriages occur because of chromosomal issues. For the vast majority of miscarriages, it is not the fault of the mother. It is not because you drank that cup of coffee. No, it’s not because you exercised, lifted your arms above your head, or had an abortion in the past. Pregnancy is super complicated. We don’t have all the answers yet. Months like this are working on increasing awareness and encouraging research. 

One study found that women who tried to conceive less than six months after a miscarriage were more likely to become pregnant and deliver successful than woman who waited longer

Many more women than you even know experience a miscarriage. Most of them go on to have successful pregnancies later. There has been a common saying that you should wait six months after a miscarriage to try and become pregnant again–give your body time to heal, et cetera–but one recent study disputed that. They found that trying to conceive less than six months after a miscarriage resulted in a higher successful delivery date than waiting. Of course, people have their own timelines. They may need that time to grieve and heal, but you should not let that six month timeline hold you back if you want to try again. However many women have fertility issues that should be explored with a medical professional, especially if they have multiple miscarriages. However, most women who have a miscarriage will go on to have successful, healthy pregnancies. 

Aryssa D
FFL Cabinet Member