In 2015, the World Health Organisation recorded that for every 1,000 births globally, 18 babies were stillborn. It gets worse. Looking at the current progress, 160 years will pass before a pregnant woman in Africa has the same chance of her baby being born alive as a woman in a high-income country.
Dr Manju A. Lodha, a specialist obstetrician and gynecologist based in Dubai, explains that the major reason causing stillbirth is uncontrolled diabetes.
She said: “If it is uncontrolled during pregnancy, it can cause stillbirth. This is why we deliver babies before time in diabetic patients.”
Patients have to go in for regular checks every week after 32 weeks of pregnancy. The baby’s heartbeat is regularly monitored, but, according to Dr Lodha, anything can happen between these tests.
She said: “At home, anything can happen. An accident in the middle of the night cannot be predicted. Ideally, we would want to wait upto 40 weeks. But, after 37 weeks, when the baby is officially mature, we generally induce the patients.”
Once born, the baby is monitored and if the mother is on insulin injections, she will also be checked, especially for sugar levels.
However, if the necessary precautions are not taken, the baby could be stillborn. Dr Lodha stated that other reasons for this could be that the umbilical cord gets wrapped around the baby’s neck or there is a placental abruption due to high blood pressure.
A woman who loses her child, for whatever reason, could experience a range of emotional and physical reactions such as “sadness, guilt, anger, difficulty concentrating and a sense of disbelief”, as stated by Farah Dahabi, a clinical social worker and director of Raymee Grief Centre in Dubai.
She said: “Everyone’s grief process is as unique as a fingerprint. But, opposed to popular belief, we do not move through stages of grief. There is no ‘getting over grief’ and even having another child does not ‘fix’ grief. There is only adjustment to living with the loss.”
But, how can one adjust to or cope with this loss? Dahabi explains that a woman should allow herself the space to feel the various emotions and share her feelings with others.
She said: “Be very patient and don’t be afraid to experience the emotions you’re feeling or cry. Unprocessed grief can negatively impact life in several ways. It can lead to anxiety, difficulty connecting and sometimes depression.”
Building a support system is an important way to heal through loss, she states. But, for those who do not have families around them, a grief support group allows individuals to know that they are not alone.