MILWAUKEE — A national program aimed at making sure more pregnancies result in healthy babies is now in Wisconsin.
The program is called Count the Kicks. It’s based on research that shows nearly 30% of stillbirths can be prevented when expectant parents are educated on the importance of tracking their baby’s movements daily during the third trimester.
Melissa Ziegler, a Milwaukee area mom, is an ambassador of the program. She helped make sure Count the Kicks is available to everyone in Wisconsin.
“We were involved in some phone calls with some representatives in the state,” Ziegler said. “We focused on awareness, advocacy and going to different [obstetrician] offices and trying to talk to the providers about it.”
Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services listened and is making sure maternal health providers, birthing hospitals, social service agencies and childbirth educators throughout the state are sharing information on Count the Kicks with expectant moms. The Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation also helped make this program possible.
Now, anyone can download the Count the Kicks app for free.
Accomplishing this was personal for Ziegler, who lost her second child at 38 weeks of pregnancy.
“With my second pregnancy, I had a completely normal, uncomplicated pregnancy,” she said. “Then at 38 weeks, a week before my scheduled C-section, I noticed she wasn’t moving as much.”
Ziegler called her doctor, who told her to come in for a checkup.
“I went into the hospital, and they did an ultrasound and couldn’t find her heartbeat, and they tried again and still didn’t find it,” she said. “We learned my daughter was stillborn at 38 weeks. We named her Lillian, or Lily for short, and I just remember feeling so blindsided. Nobody had talked to me about kick counting or stillbirth.”
To honor Lily, Ziegler started advocating for Count the Kicks.
The app helped Ziegler have a better outcome during her next pregnancy. Starting at 28 weeks, she used Count the Kicks to track the baby’s movements every day.
“Right around 35 weeks, when I didn’t feel her as much as normal, I went to the hospital,” Ziegler said. “She was okay, but my blood pressure was elevated and she was born at 36 weeks.”
Though born a month early, Ziegler’s daughter Zoey was born healthy.
Kimberly Isburg, communications manager with Count the Kicks, said raising awareness is key.
“Every year in the state of Wisconsin, according to the CDC, an average of 325 babies are stillbirth,” Isburg said.
Isburg wants everyone to know that tracking movements during the third trimester increases the odds of having a healthy outcome.
“As baby movement changes, either an increase or decrease in movement, both mom and baby should be checked out by a health provider right away,” she said.
Ziegler said baby Zoey is an example that Count the Kicks works.
“It was a no-brainer to me that this is something minimally invasive, and really low cost, that we could do to try and prevent stillbirth, and prevent any other family having to go through what we went through with losing Lily,” she said.
The Count the Kicks app can be found in the Apple App Store and Google Play. It is available in 16 different languages.