Miscarriage and stillbirth in the United States is a common occurrence. 1 in 4 pregnancies will be miscarried within the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. It is most common within the first 12 weeks. Stillbirth is the death of a baby greater than 20 weeks of gestation. 1 in 160 pregnancies will end in stillbirth. This is more common than Down Syndrome and 10 times more common than SIDS.
Miscarriage and stillbirth are considered traumatic events causing intense grief which may lead to depression. While grief and depression are very different processes with very different treatments, we do know that the experience a family has during the loss of their pregnancy or death of their baby greatly impacts their grief experience.
For example, families often do not know what their options are for delivering the baby and what might be best for them in terms of their physical and emotional needs. The assistance of a bereavement doula or loss specialist can greatly transform that experience and assist with better coping and a swifter grief period. Doctors and hospitals which offer certain opportunities for the coping and grief experience help their patients for the long term.
Compassionate treatment and acknowledgement that miscarriage and stillbirth are sad and traumatic experiences is one simple way doctors and hospitals can help. Offering mementos, diagnostic testing such as autopsy, and burial options is another but here is where we see varying differences between those doctors and hospitals.
Some offer the minimum such as holding the baby for a short period of time, pictures, and prints. Other doctors and hospitals offer a much broader experience with carefully timed options for the family. Many families don’t know or believe that clothing is available to dress their baby in such as the clothing and gowns offered by Front Range Angel Gowns. Even some of the tiniest babies can be dressed such as babies miscarried as early as 14 weeks.
Clothing and gowns can be a very comforting option for the family, further humanizing their experience and their loss; which for some, is extremely validating and helpful. While there are many options for families experiencing miscarriage and stillbirth; there is one very important option not yet available in Colorado. That option, is the gift of time which is provided by a tool called the CuddleCot.
Hospitals have come a long way when it comes to providing the family as much time as they would like with their baby. Gone are the days of the baby immediately being taken from the mother never to be seen. Some of those mothers still wonder if their baby was truly dead or abducted. Hospitals are moving from no time with baby, to minutes, to hours, and some allow days. This becomes complicated as in the case of Jennifer.
Jennifer was 40 weeks pregnant and beginning to experience contractions. She had just visited the doctor the day before and the son she was expecting was moving and had a strong heartbeat. As her labor progressed, she called her doctor to tell her that contractions were closer together and more painful. The doctor had her come in to the clinic for a labor assessment; which was standard for her practice.
When Jennifer arrived, her world quickly turned upside down. The nurse could not find her son’s heartbeat. She immediately ran out of the room, without saying a word, and retrieved the doctor. The doctor brought in an ultrasound machine and confirmed her son no longer had a heartbeat. She was sent to the hospital and had a bereavement doula present. When her son was born, she desired him to stay with her. Hospital policy dictated that the baby could be with her for a few hours but then they needed to take the baby to the morgue. The baby could be brought back at any time.
This policy was very disturbing to Jennifer and her family. She spent as much time as she could with Jacob and then she handed him to the nurse only for him to be transported in a cardboard box to the morgue. The family couldn’t comprehend their new baby going to the morgue and after an hour, requested they return him to her. Upon return, the hospital staff placed Jacob under the baby warmer to warm him up so she could hold him. This process was repeated for two days causing immense distress for Jennifer as well as speeding up the decomposition process for Jacob.
Each hospital has their own policy on the time the parents can have with their baby but not a single hospital has a CuddleCot and the CuddleCot circumvents the need for the baby to ever be removed from the room. The CuddleCot is a cooling unit. It is a pad that can be placed inside of a Moses’ basket or the hospital bassinet. The pad is attached to a cooling device which keeps the pad cool. The baby would never need to go to the morgue or a refrigerator on the unit. The pad could even be wrapped up around the baby and then blankets wrapped around the pad while the parents hold the baby.
The CuddleCot provides the ultimate gift of time for families enduring miscarriage, stillbirth, and even infant loss. The CuddleCot could be used on labor and delivery units, in the emergency room, in the NICU, and in any other area of the hospital where pregnancy and infant loss occurs. The CuddleCot is so small, it can be stored in a medium sized box within a closet on a shelf.
There are barriers to hospitals having a CuddleCot. The main reason is awareness. Many hospitals are not even aware this gift exists and the other is cost. The CuddleCot costs around $3,500. Currently, Dragonflies For Ruby, a pregnancy loss ministry, is fundraising to bring the CuddleCot to Colorado. Please donate today!