Stillbirth. A condition I’ve been battling to prevent my entire professional career and a word that literally gives me nightmares. Everyone knows that a pregnant woman shouldn’t carry a baby for nine months only to experience the absence of its cry and movement at the moment of its birth. No one is ever prepared for it. That dreadful moment when the mother complains of no fetal movement and the confirmatory ultrasound that documents a baby’s death is sheer terror.

Photographer Lindsey Natzic-Villatoro captures the essence of family love and grief in her photographic essay of a family mourning the loss of their infant daughter, Monroe Faith Staley. The mother desperately pleads for the baby to wake-up but she can’t.

Although we are never told the cause of the stillbirth it was totally unexpected. Common causes of stillbirth include: uncontrolled high blood pressure, uncontrolled diabetes, and fetal growth restriction (meaning the fetus has stopped growing). Less common causes include Lupus, maternal obesity and smoking. The absence of fetal movement for more than an hour should cause concern and warrant an emergency phone call, office visit or labor and delivery room visit to make certain everything is okay. Please don’t discount this recommendation because it saved the lives of a few of my patients’ babies who had low amniotic fluid, an abnormal placenta or a tight cord around the baby’s neck. Had the mothers’ not reported the absence of fetal movement, they would have experienced tragedy.

How do you reduce the likelihood of having a stillbirth? By following these recommendations:

• Having diabetes and hypertension detected and managed properly
• Consider having an induction of labor at 41 weeks or greater
• Treatment of Syphllis
• Have frequent fetal surveillance tests if you have fetal growth restriction
• Have a skilled physician or midwife
• Deliver at a hospital that can provide comprehensive obstetrical care

Life, no matter how brief, is still worthy of being remembered. Rest in Peace, Baby Monroe. You are gone, but certainly not forgotten.