Archive for the ‘Pre-term Birth’ Category

Series: Brilliant Activities for Birth Educators – Events of Late Pregnancy and Premature Birth

November 19th, 2015 by avatar

PlaybillNovember is Prematurity Awareness Month and November 17th was World Prematurity Awareness Day. This month’s Brilliant Activities for Birth Educators post is about preventing prematurity, the events of late pregnancy and the importance of waiting for labor to begin on its own. As they do every year, the March of Dimes leads the way in recognizing the importance of preventing premature births. They have provided information and resources to bring this important problem to light.  The number one cause of death of young children worldwide is complications from being born too early, with estimates of 1.1 million deaths directly linked to being born too early.   In the United States, one in ten babies are born premature.  If you live in the USA, you can check out how your state has performed on the prematurity report card.  On the international level, you can find out how your country ranks here.  In the US, we also know that premature births and low birth weight babies are more likely to occur in families of color.

I cover premature birth in my childbirth classes in many ways, including recognizing the signs of premature labor, and facilitating a discussion around the Lamaze Healthy Birth Practice “Let Labor Begin On Its Own” as induction before a baby is ready and has started labor can unintentionally result in a premature birth if the gestational age is estimated incorrectly or even if the baby was not ready and needed some more time in utero.  Not every baby is ready to be born at the same time.

My favorite activity to do in class on this topic leaves families really understanding the benefits of letting baby start labor when they are ready (in the absence of medical complications).  In small groups – the families prepare and present a short skit on the events of late pregnancy.

When this is activity is done in class

I cover this information on week two of a seven week series, at the beginning of class.  The families are just beginning to gel and we have done quite a bit of interactive learning the week before, on class one, but this is definitely a leap of faith on their part to be doing such a “daring” activity at the start of the second class.  They have only been with me and their classmates for one 2.5 hour session.  I am asking a lot of them, but they always rise to the challenge.

© Penny Simkin

© Penny Simkin

How I introduce the topic and set up the activity

I hand out Penny Simkin’s “Events of Late Pregnancy” information sheet that is available for purchase as a tear pad from PennySimkin.com. I discuss how both pregnant person and baby are getting ready for birth in the last weeks of a pregnancy.  Many different processes are happening and systems are moving forward to have everything culminate and coordinate in the labor and birth.  Each and every process is critical to a healthy baby and a body that is ready for labor.  I divide the class into four groups and assign each group to be either a Pregnant Person, Uterus, Fetus, or the Placenta/Membranes.  I ask them to collaborate together and prepare a skit, activity, active presentation, interpretive dance, charade etc., that shares information on the changes their assigned role undergoes during the last weeks of pregnancy and through labor.  I give them around five minutes to prepare and offer to provide any props that they might need from my teaching supplies.  They gather their groups, take their tear sheet and head to four corners of the classroom to get to work.

The results of their creativity

After the small group work is completed, we gather back as a class and get ready for the “show.”  In turn, each group (and their chosen props) heads to the front of the room to do their presentation.  Everyone follows along with their info sheet.  The results are outstanding and usually quite comically.

Some of the most memorable presentations have included a newscaster holding a microphone and interviewing the fetus at different gestational ages.

Newscaster: “Hello 34 week old fetus, can you tell me what you are working on now?”

Fetus: “Well, this week, I am taking on iron and my mother’s antibodies. I need the iron to help me through my first six months and the antibodies protect me until I can make my own. ”


© Anne Geddes and March of Dimes

Other groups have created a giant pelvis with their bodies and had a “baby” assume the birth position and move through.  I recall a group ripped up red paper into confetti, and released it from up high to represent bloody show.  Just this week, one group did a hip hop dance and chanted along with the different events.  “Antibodies” have leapt through “placentas,” and fake breasts have leaked colostrum.  Giant uteri have contracted and pushed babies out.  One week, uncoordinated contractions representing Braxton-Hicks contractions “squeezed” out of sync and then got “organized” and worked in unison to represent labor contractions getting longer, stronger and closer together, flexing and squeezing like a well fabricated machine. I am continually amazed at the creativity and ingenuity of the results.  Everyone laughs and best of all, the events are memorable and easy to recall.


After each group has a chance to present their section, we debrief and discuss any questions.  We bring things full circle by talking about what the impact might be for a premature birth or a birth that occurs before the baby or parent’s body is ready.  Everyone is clear that the process of birth and the transition that baby needs to make works best when baby chooses their birth day.  We admire everyone’s creativity and laugh about the mad skills that the class has!  As the series continues, I can refer back to these skits and remind them of the important steps as they come up again in class.  I am amazed that they have great recall of the progression.

What the families say about the activity

After we have finished, the feedback I receive on this activity is great!  Despite their initial hesitancy to get so far out of their comfort zone, families really remember the events, recognize how important the changes are that occur in the pregnant parent, the uterus, the baby and the placenta and membranes. They can clearly articulate why it is important to reduce the chance of a premature baby and wait for labor to start on its own.  The unique presentations really make things memorable and the families report back to me weeks later, or even at the class reunion after birth, how they often thought of this activity and it helped them to have patience to wait for baby to come.  They knew good (and important) things were happening in the last few weeks that would make for a healthy birth and baby.

How do you teach about preventing premature birth and the importance of waiting until baby starts labor?  What interactive teaching ideas do you use?  Do you think that you might try something like this in your childbirth classes?  How might you modify it.  Share your thoughts in the comments below.  I would love to hear from you.

Babies, Childbirth Education, Healthy Birth Practices, Lamaze International, Newborns, Pre-term Birth, Series: Brilliant Activities for Birth Educators , , , , ,

The Numbers Are In – Good News on Key Birth Statistics, But Work Still to Be Done

October 13th, 2015 by avatar

the numbers are inLast week, the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), part of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released 2014 information from the National Vital Statistics System, which works collaboratively with the NCHS.  This information comes from birth certificates and captures all births that have occurred in the United States during the reporting period.

There was definitely some good news amongst the mammoth report. Here are some highlights:

General Fertility Rate

The general fertility rate (GFR- number of births/1,000 women) increased to 62.9 per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 to 44..  This increase is the first increase since 2007.  Birth rates often decrease during periods of national financial instability.  Possibly, people are feeling more positive about the economy and their own financial security. While the increase from 2013 to 2014  was only 1%, things may be turning around as it has been an eight year streak of consecutive decreases.  it should be noted that non-Hispanic white women and Asian Pacific Islanders both had an increase in the GFR, the rate remained unchanged for non-Hispanic black women.  The fertility rates of Hispanic and American Indian or Alaskan Native women both hit historic lows.

Teen Birth Rates

The birth rates amongst teens aged 15-19 declined to historic lows for all teens as well as for each race and Hispanic origin group.  The birth rate for teens aged 15-19 dropped 9% from 2013 to 2014.   It was 24.2 per 1,000 females aged 15-19.  Comparing the 2014 rate to 2007, the rate has dropped 42%!

Cesarean Rates

The cesarean birth rate was 2014 was 32.2%, down from 32.7% in 2013.  The 2014 cesarean birth rate is down 2% from the high of 32.9 in 2009. Of significance – the cesarean delivery rates for non-Hispanic black, Hispanic and Asian/Pacific Islanders declined for the first time since 1996.  These groups have had 18 consecutive years of increasing cesarean birth rates.  Non-Hispanic white women have consistently had the larger declines.

Preterm Birth Rates

The number of babies born before 37 completed weeks of gestation declined again to 9.57% of all births.  Since 2007, the percentage of preterm babies is down 8% since 2007.  In 2014, non-Hispanic black infants were about 50% more likely to be born preterm than non-Hispanic white, Hispanic, and Asian/Pacific Islander infants.  Many campaigns, such a “Go the Full 40” (AWHONN) and “A Healthy Baby Is Worth the Wait” (March of Dimes) and others by additional organizations have been effective at reducing the number of non-medically necessary inductions before 39 weeks.

If you are interested in all the data – or even accessing the raw data for your own analysis, head over to the NCHS/CDC Vital Statistics website to download the reports or databases of your choice.

Leapfrog Group Releases Hospital Cesarean Rates

© Leapfrog Group

© Leapfrog Group

Additionally, last week, The Leapfrog Group – a nonprofit national watchdog group whose mission is to imporove the safety, quality and affordability of health care by a) supporting informed health care decisions by those who use and pay for health care; and, b) promoting high-value health care through incentives and rewards, released a national cesarean rate by hospital report.  This report, readily available to consumers, includes information on 48 states and Washington DC.  You can read the full press release here.

1122 hospitals voluntarily responded to the 2015 Leapfrog Hospital Survey.  Upon analysis, it was determined tht over 60% of reporting hospitals had excessive rates of cesarean sections.  The Leapfrog Cesarean Report collaborated with Childbirth Connection to help explain the information contained in the report.

The report contains the NTSV cesarean rates for the 1122 hospitals.  NTSV refers to a first time (nulliparous) pregnancy, that is full term (37th week or later) and there is one fetus (singleton) in the vertex (head down) position.  The NTSV cesarean section rate is recognized as being directly associated with quality improvement activities that are being implemented to reduce the number of unnecessary cesareans.

The cesarean section target rate for NTSV population that the Leapfrog Group adopted is 23.9% based on a proposal by the HealthyPeople.gov’s 2020 initiative, which seeks to improve the health and well-being of women, infants, children and families by the year 2020. It is important to realize that this NTSV rate is not the overall cesarean rate, which is much higher as it includes all births, not just those NTSV births.

“This is really about how well we, as doctors, nurses, midwives, and hospitals, support labor. Hospital staff that support labor appropriately and are sensitive to families’ birth plans are shown to have lower C-section rates overall. If we want to improve this rate across the board, then hospitals must hold themselves to this standard to ensure safe short- and long-term outcomes for both mom and baby.” Elliott Main, M.D., chair of Leapfrog’s Maternity Care Expert Panel and medical director of Stanford’s California Maternal Quality Care Collaborative.

Utah had the lowest number of NTSV cesareans at 18.3%.  Kentucky was last with an NTSV cesarean rate of 35.3%.  (Not all states had sufficient hospitals reporting data to calculate their ranking)

Consumers can find out the ranking of hospitals in their state by following this link.  There is also a very helpful section in this report that includes information on how consumers can help navigate their maternity health care options to prevent unnecessary cesarean sections.

As a childbirth educator, will you share this information with the families you work with?  How will you help them to understand the importance of their choice of birth locations?  How can you help families to navigate this situation when they do not have the freedom of choice or do not have an alternative available to them?








Martin JA, Hamilton BE, Osterman MJK. Births in the United States, 2014. NCHS data brief, no 216. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2015.



what does it mean when the hospital doesn’t report

transparency acts of mass and NY

and if a firm like leapfrog can’t get them imagine how hard for average consumer


Cesarean Birth, Childbirth Education, New Research, Newborns, Pre-term Birth, Research , , , , , , , , ,

Prematurity Awareness Month – Test Your Knowledge on Our Quiz

November 25th, 2014 by avatar

Prematurity Awareness Month 2014As November comes to a close, you may have read or seen many articles on the topic of premature babies.  November is Prematurity Awareness Month, recognized in the United States and around the world.  Prematurity affects 15 million babies a year globally and the downstream health consequences to the babies are significant.  There is also a huge burden in terms of health care dollars that are required to treat the baby after birth and then potentially for many years beyond that.

In 2013, the national preterm birth rate fell to its lowest rate in 17 years.  This decrease helped us to meet the 2020 Healthy People Goals 7 years early, which is something to celebrate.  But overall, our prematurity rate is still nothing to be admired, as the United States has one of the highest rates amongst developed nations.

As childbirth educators, we are in a unique position to share information with families, including signs of preterm labor, risk factors and warning signs.  Having conversations in your classes can help families to recognize when something may not  be normal and encourages them to contact their doctor or midwife if they suspect they may be experiencing some of the signs of a potential preterm birth.  While no family wants to think that this might happen to them, bringing up the topic can help them to seek out help sooner.

Science & Sensibility has put together some resources that you can share with the families that you work with.  We also invite you to take the Prematurity Awareness Month Challenge Quiz, and test your knowledge on some basic facts about preterm birth.  See how well you do and compare your results with others also taking the quiz.

Resources to share

Go the Full 40 – AWHONN’s prematurity prevention campaign, including 40 reasons to go the full 40.

Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait – March of Dimes

Healthy People 2020 – Maternal, Infant & Child Health

March of Dimes Prematurity Report Card – Find your state’s grade

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Prematurity Awareness

March of Dimes Videos on Prematurity Awareness

Signs of Preterm Labor – March of Dimes Video

Preterm Labor Assessment Tool Kit for Health Professionals – March of Dimes.

How do you cover the topic of preterm labor in your classes?  What activities do you do?  What videos do you like to show?  Please share with others how you do your part to inform parents about this important topic and help to reduce prematurity in the families you work with.  Let us know in the comments section below.


Babies, Childbirth Education, Maternal Quality Improvement, Maternity Care, Newborns, Pain Management, Pre-term Birth , , , ,

The Straight Scoop On Inductions – Lamaze International Releases New Infographic

November 21st, 2013 by avatar

Click image to see full size

The health concerns that affect preterm babies are well documented and much is known about the impact of an early birth on the long term health of children.  Some of these issues were discussed in a recent post on Science & Sensibility highlighting World Prematurity Day.  The issue of babies being born too soon was highlighted by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) in a new committee opinion recently published in the November issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

In a joint committee opinion, “The Definition of Term Pregnancy” released by ACOG and the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine, these organizations acknowledge that previously it was believed that “the period from 3 weeks before until 2 weeks after the estimated date of delivery was considered ‘term’ with the expectation that neonatal outcomes from deliveries in this interval were uniform and good.”  More recent research has demonstrated that this is not the case.  The likelihood of neonatal problems, in particular issues related to respiratory morbidity, has a wide variability based on when during this five week “term” window baby is born.

ACOG has released four new definitions that clinicians and others can use when referring to gestational age; early term, full term, late term and postterm.

  1. Early term shall be used to describe all deliveries between 37 0/7 and 38 6/7 weeks of gestation.
  2. Term shall indicate deliveries from 39 0/7 and 40 6/7 weeks of gestation.
  3. Late term refers to all delivers rom 41 0/7 to 41 6/7 weeks of gestation.
  4. Postterm indicates all births from 42 0/7 weeks of gestation and beyond.

These new definitions should be put into practice by all those who work with birthing women, including researchers, clinicians, public health officials and organizations AND childbirth educators. We can and should be teaching and using these terms with our students.

As we move forward, we can expect to see these terms applied and research defined by the new categories, which will yield rich and useful information for those working in the field of maternal-infant health.

Lamaze International has long been focused on evidence based care during the childbearing year and continues to support childbirth educators, consumers and others by providing useful and fact based information that women and their families can use to make informed choices about their maternity care.  As part of this continued effort, Lamaze is pleased to share a new induction infographic created by the Lamaze Institute for Safe & Healthy Birth committee. This easy to read infographic is designed to highlight the facts about induction and encourage women to carefully consider all the information before choosing a non-medically indicated induction.  More than one in four women undergo an induction using medical means, and 19% of those inductions had no medical basis.

Since many women are pressured by providers or well-meaning but misguided friends and family to be induced, Lamaze encourages women to learn what are the important questions to ask during conversations with their providers and to get the facts about their own personal situation.  It is also recognized that a quality Lamaze childbirth education class can provide a good foundation for understanding safe and healthy birth practices.

Lamaze International is proud of their Six Healthy Birth Practices for safe and healthy birth, and this infographic supports the first birth practice; let labor begin on its own.  Women need to be able to gather information to discern between a medically indicated induction, which protects the baby, the mother or both from those induction that are done for a social or nonmedical reason which increases the risk of further interventions, including cesarean surgery for mothers and NICU stays for babies who were not ready to be born. This infographic can be shared with students, clients and patients.  It can be hung in classrooms and offices.  Educators can use it in creative ways during teaching sessions, when discussing the topics of inductions, informed consent and birth planning.

As the benefits of a term baby are more clearly understood, and research is revealing how critical those last days are for a baby’s final growth and development, it is perfect timing for Lamaze to share this infographic.  This tool will reduce unneeded inductions and help women learn how important it is to allow their babies to receive the full benefit of coming when the baby is ready.  There has been a huge push to stop inductions before at least 39 weeks.  March of Dimes has their “Healthy Babies are Worth the Wait” campaign. The new induction infographic provides an accessible and easy to use information sheet to help families reduce non-medical inductions. Many organizations, including Lamaze are joining together to make sure that babies are born as healthy as possible and women go into labor naturally when baby is ready.

You can find and download the full version of the Induction infographic on the Let’s Talk Induction page of Lamaze’s Push for Your Baby campaign website.  Alternately, if you are a Lamaze member, you can also download the infographic and many other useful handouts from the Teaching Handouts Professional Resource Page from Lamaze International.

Please take a moment to read over this great, new infographic and share in the comments below, both your thoughts on the finished product and how you might use this to help mothers to push for the best care. Lamaze International and its members are doing their part to help reduce the number of early term babies who arrive before they are ready.  I look forward to hearing your thoughts and your ideas for classroom use.


The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Committee on Obstetric Practice Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine. Committee Opinion No 579: Definition of Term Pregnancy. Obstet Gynecol 2013; 122:1139.

Declercq, E. R., & Sakala, C. (2013). Listening to mothers III: Pregnancy and childbirth.”. 


ACOG, Babies, Childbirth Education, Evidence Based Medicine, Healthy Birth Practices, informed Consent, Maternal Quality Improvement, Medical Interventions, New Research, Newborns, NICU, Practice Guidelines, Pre-term Birth, Push for Your Baby, Research , , , , , , , , , , ,

Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep Photography; Honoring the Babies Whose Stay Was Too Short

October 15th, 2013 by avatar

© Vicki Zoller

October 15 is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. If you are a professional who works with expecting families, you no doubt will at some point have a family who suffers a loss during their pregnancy, a stillbirth or the death of their newborn in the days and weeks after birth.  I wanted to share with Science & Sensibility readers a wonderful organization dedicated to honoring the loss or short life of a baby. Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep is a non-profit organization of photographers dedicated to capturing the images of a beautiful baby taken too  soon from the families who loved them.  I had the opportunity to interview a longtime photographer, Vicki Zoller with the program for today’s post in honor of this special day.  On Thursday, we will meet a family who lost a child and had their story documented by Vicki through the NILMDTS program.


Sharon Muza:  How did you become involved in NILMDTS?

Vicki Zoller: 
I heard about the organization through another photographer. I haven’t experienced a loss but felt the draw of this work as a photographer. Being able to capture that moment in time, that private, painful moment in time and hold it captured forever for the family was the draw for me.  I have been involved in NILMDTS since 2008.

 SM:  What kind of photographer makes a great NILMDTS photographer?

VZ:  I think that a photographer that appreciates what a gift they possess and can share in such a meaningful way is what makes a great NILMDTS photographer. Having a skill, a unique skill that allows you to come into that room and forever record this moment is something that you either ‘get’ as a photographer or you don’t. The photographers that I have worked with, trained and become friends with in this organization have a passion for this. There is chord that resonates in us that tells us, ‘how can I NOT do this’. How often in life do we really get to make this kind of difference? How often do we really get the chance to make something a bit better out of something so horrible. It’s a chance to not just stand on the sidelines and say, ‘Oh how sad’ or to feel powerless. It’s that opportunity to know that you truly are making a difference.

SM: If there is a photographer interested in joining NILMDTS, what are the first steps that they should take?

VZ: They need to go to the main website at Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep and apply to become an affiliate photographer. During the application process an applicant will be asked to submit samples of their professional level work, demonstrating use of natural and auxiliary lighting. If they want to find out more about the organization before they apply they can, at the same website, click on the ‘find a photographer’ link and find someone in their area that might be willing to answer some questions for them.

SM:  Is there special training that a NILMDTS photographer receives before beginning this work.

VZ: NILMDTS photographers are given a training manual after they are accepted. Many larger areas, like here in the Greater Seattle Area, offer training on a fairly regular basis. We also have our new photographers go on a session with a more experienced photographer just to get a feel of where to go, what to say, how to handle the session, etc. But there are many of us, especially those that came into the organization early on, that never had that opportunity to ‘train’ or ‘shadow’ with a photographer. We just went when the hospital called and did what we knew how to do as photographers . . . capture beautifully lit and composed images that the family would have as keepsakes. Not really all that different than what we would try to do for a regular ‘paying’ client. We want to give our NILMDTS families the same quality as we would want to give to anyone.

SM:  How do you record the beauty of these little ones when their bodies may be scarred, or changed due to illness, medical equipment, etc. Do you “celebrate” these things or do you use your skills to portray the babies in a different light?

© Vicki Zoller

VZ: We never change anything that the baby was born with. These are special aspects of a beautiful new baby. So things like cleft lips or special features are kept as is and are indeed celebrated as part of this child. We do retouch images. We retouch blood, mucus, tears in skin, perhaps close the eyes if needed and generally try to create a gently retouched but authentic image of the baby. We may remove tape that held in medical equipment and try to give the family an image that doesn’t have “hospital’ written all over it. We try to pose the babies in gentle and sensitive ways with the parents and without. We tend to keep it simple and clean and truthful in the emotion of the day. We photograph many details, the little feet and hands, the profile, the ears, the swirl of hair on the top of the head. We want the family to have all these details to remember with. Especially when the detail may be a family trait of some kind such as a crocked finger or toes that splay wide . . . just little special things.
All our images are converted to Black and White or Sepia to provide a gentler viewing for the family.

SM: How do you not let the sadness and grief come into your life, when your work taking and processing the pictures is done?

VZ: The beauty of having a camera in front of your face is that is becomes a filter to the events and emotions in the room. That isn’t saying that we don’t feel things while we are there but when you have a job to do, a task to complete, that is where your mind tends to go and that camera is a filter. You are looking at the world through a bit of space that holds only a piece of the room at a time or a piece of the baby at a time. That makes a HUGE difference. We tend to go in to ‘photographer mode’ and that is where we stay during the session. Sometimes processing the images is the harder part. Now you have these images, large and real, on your computer screen and you are looking at them closely to see what you can do to improve them. It tends to come home emotionally for many photographers once they have the images on the computer. 

SM: Can you share a very challenging moment or situation in your work with NILMDTS?

VZ: That’s a tough one but generally the hardest tend to be the full term babies with NO VISIBLE signs of WHY they passed. I’ve been at sessions where mom was fine, baby was fine, all through labor but then at delivery things went south. On one occasion, it was a full term baby boy that came out screaming and crying but once the cord was cut he passed . . . instantly everything changed. I think that for me those kinds of sessions are the toughest. To be so CLOSE to the finish line, to almost have that baby all warm and pink and crying and then to have nothing . . . 
When you see a baby with obvious things wrong or they came too early or the parents have had to make that terribly hard choice to end the pregnancy due to health issues you can almost accept it better. Sort of like, ‘Ah ha! That’s the reason, there it is’. It gives you something to wrap your brain around. 
Not as easy to do with full term losses .  

SM: What would you like birth professionals to share with ALL parents about the NILMDTS program.

VZ: We are free. That is really important for them to know. I think they see our brochures and wonder how much it will cost them.
We are professional. We come in, we act professional, we capture professional quality images, we respect the environment we are in and we respect our families’ privacy and their pain. 

SM: Are there brochures available for placement in childbirth classes, health care provider offices, etc?

VZ: Yes, brochures are available either from our headquarters in Denver or you can get some from your local Area Coordinators or photographers.

 SM:  How does NILMDTS get the word out to birth professionals about the services that are offered to parents?


© Vicki Zoller

VZ: Our photographers and our Area Coordinators generally are the ones that get the information out there. I contacted the nursing managers at all our local hospitals when I first started. I built relationships and over time, as they saw the work we did, saw how we interacted with their patients, saw the benefits of what we can give, they began calling us more and more often. It’s a good feeling to be a part of the bereavement groups at the hospitals, to be something that the nurses can offer these families in such a horrible time. There is so little consolation that can be given but the prospect of having some beautiful and thoughtful images of your baby can be of great help in that horrible time.

SM: Who can use the services of NILMDTS?

VZ: All hospitals and birth centers. Also social workers for fetal medicine. Funeral homes as well. Any one that wants to contact us for any reason that might involve this special kind of photography is welcome to call. 

SM: Do you take pictures just of babies or do you also record older children?

VZ: Generally just babies. But if asked we would, if a photographer is ok with it, offer our service for older children. Soulumination (in the Puget Sound, WA area) is another photographer organization that often provides ‘life portraits’ for families of older kids facing a grim prognosis or for children under 18 whose parents are facing a terminal illness. 

SM: How are you received by the staff of the facilities you take pictures in?

VZ: At first it was a bit sketchy. Some nurses thought it was weird, grim, maybe not appropriate. But generally once they see the quality of our work and how it helps the family they become very accepting. We are now very well received at all the major hospitals in the greater Seattle Area.   

SM: What do you tell parents when they are unsure if they want pictures?

VZ: Generally it isn’t us that contacts the parents about our services. The nurses or the social worker will offer the service to the parents. We only come if the parents want us to come. We don’t come just because a nurse wants the photos taken. It is only at the request of the parents. 
Once there, parents might be feeling ambivalent about having images done. It is so surreal isn’t it? Here you are with a baby that has passed and in comes a professional photographer to take portraits!! 
If they tell me they don’t want any photos with the baby I gently remind them that today is raw and painful but there will come a time when the pain has lessened and I don’t want them to have any regrets about not having at least one image of their baby’s hand in their hand. Once I mention that it is just their hands they are more receptive and then sometimes it progresses from hands to a complete family portrait. But we don’t push too hard. As long as they have some photos of their baby, then they will find some peace in that.

 SM: Do you stay connected with families after you have completed your phot session?

VZ: On occasion. It isn’t something that I pursue. If it happens organically, then it’s wonderful. I have been able to see some of my families go on to have other babies, healthy, wonderful babies and I love that!!

SM: Is there anything you would like readers of Science & Sensibility to know?

VZ: If you or anyone you know has ever experienced a loss, please know that there are others out there just like you that are recovering and it’s important to not feel alone, find groups out there that have families going through loss as well. Stay connected to those that will understand what you are feeling.
 NILMDTS is an amazing organization that is always looking for new photographers and community volunteers. If anyone wants more information please contact me or NILMDTS headquarters.

Healthcare professionals are awesome and anyone working in the labor and delivery field knows how fragile the delivery process can be. There is always that moment when you can almost see mom and baby on that razor thin edge between life and death. Having a healthy baby is hard work and those that care for moms during pregnancy and birth are special people! We want to be a part of your bereavement kit but we hate it when you have to make that call. But when you do, please know we will be creating some meaningful images for your families and that we will do that with love and compassion.

Have you had experience with NILMDTS on a personal or professional level?  Do you share this resource with your students, clients and patients so that they are aware of this wonderful organization?   Are you also a photographer who captures these sweet babies? How do you help families experiencing pregnancy and infant loss?  What are your favorite resources.  Please share your thoughts with our readers in the comment section.  And if you know a NILMDTS photographer, thank them on this day, for the heart work that they do.


Babies, Childbirth Education, Newborns, Pre-term Birth, Pregnancy Complications, Trauma work, Uncategorized , , , , , , , ,

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