Count the Kicks
LOWELL -- Dorothie had been a healthy, active baby, but her movement in utero began to slow last year as Jillian Ducharme approached her Nov. 9 due date.
That September, Ducharme began using Count the Kicks, an app that helps expectant mothers track their babies’ fetal movements as a safety measure. Ducharme, however, was only using it when she felt a decrease in movement, rather than from the start of the third trimester as intended.
“Every day, you should be recording when you’re feeling the baby move, so you recognize the pattern every single day,” said Ducharme, 30, of Lowell. “That way, you’re ahead of the game when you feel a decrease.”
When Ducharme went for her 36-week ultrasound on Oct. 13 last year, she and her boyfriend, Matthew Wolley, received the news no parent wants to hear: Dorie, as they nicknamed her, no longer had a heartbeat.
Ducharme delivered her daughter stillborn two days later. She found out later there had been a problem with her placenta, the most common cause of stillbirth. According to the National Institutes of Health, pregnancy disorders and conditions that affect the placenta are responsible for half of all stillbirths.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 24,000 babies are stillborn each year in the U.S. -- about 1 percent of all pregnancies.
Healthy Birth Day, the organization behind the Count the Kicks app, was started in Iowa in 2009 by five moms who lost daughters to stillbirth or infant death. It’s modeled after a public health program in Norway that reduced one hospital system’s stillbirth rate by 30 percent, according to the organization. Since it began, the Count the Kicks campaign, Iowa’s stillbirth rate has decreased 26 percent, the organization said, citing Iowa Department of Public Health figures.
Wanting to do something positive to honor her daughter, Ducharme held an online fundraiser that raised about $1,400 for the organization last year. That led to Ducharme being named the Massachusetts ambassador for Count the Kicks, part of the effort to spread the campaign further across the country and inform more moms-to-be about kick counting.
Ducharme said she’s already raised enough to supply all of the doctor offices and hospitals that treat pregnant women in Lowell with brochures, posters and other educational materials for free. Now, it’s a matter of getting each of the practices on board.
It’s up to Ducharme, with some assistance from Count the Kicks, to go out to each place, prove the legitimacy of kick counting and secure their partnership. It’s a big task, especially with her full-time job in marketing in the insurance industry. She’s hopeful once she lays the groundwork, the word will spread.
“It’s an uphill battle and I’m willing to fight that,” Ducharme said.
In her short time working with Count the Kicks, Ducharme said she’s already heard heartening success stories. In one example, a mother tracking decreased fetal movements sought medical help and discovered the umbilical cord was wrapped around the baby’s neck. Doctors were able to save and deliver the baby early, she said.
Ducharme said knowing that she’s honoring her daughter by helping to save other babies is therapeutic.
“It is very comforting for me,” she said.
On Sunday, the day before the one-year anniversary of Dorie’s stillbirth, Ducharme will host “Daisies for Dorie,” a fundraiser to support Count the Kicks and her first effort toward raising the $52,000 needed bring resources to all doctor offices and hospitals that treat pregnant women across the state.
It will be held from 2-5 p.m. at Cappy’s Copper Kettle, 245 Central St., and will feature a DJ and raffles and silent auction items donated by local businesses.
Those who cannot attend but would like to contribute can donate at facebook.com/donate/681975558843827/ .
Follow Alana Melanson at facebook.com/alana.lowellsun or on Twitter @alanamelanson.