COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.
It’s the same month, one year ago, NBC4 Anchor Jennifer Bullock’s third child, Miles Owen, was born “sleeping” at 33 weeks.
It’s a tough topic, not often talked about, but for many families, it’s a reality.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, 24,000 babies are stillborn in the United States each year, 1 in 160 births. Sadly, for many of the families affected, these deaths are “unexplained,” doctors don’t know why this happens.
But one woman is working to change that and prevent any other family from having to live with that pain, through public policy.
Debbie Haine Vijayvergiya became an advocate for stillbirth awareness and education after her daughter, Autumn Joy, was stillborn in July 2011.
“Went to my doctor for a routine second-trimester checkup, and when I was there, they could not detect my daughter Autumn’s heartbeat,” said Vijayvergiya. “And as you know, all too well, the moment that someone shares this news with you — my life has just never been the same since.
“I promised Autumn that I would do whatever I had to do to protect others from ever having to suffer a similar fate and I took that promise very seriously and that’s really what I’ve been doing every day since.”
For the last seven years, Vijayvergiya has been working on legislation — the Stillbirth Health Improvement and Education (SHINE) for Autumn Act, a bill to improve research and data collection in order to better understand and prevent stillbirths in the U.S.
“I was having so many conversations around stillbirth and people didn’t really want to do anything,” said Vijayvergiya. “Even when they heard the facts. So, policy was the next best option.”
The bill was introduced in the Senate in March, by U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Marco Rubio (R-FL). It has yet to pass, but Vijayvergiya said it’s a step in the right direction.
“It’s not going to be the end all be all, but we, we have to start laying the foundation to addressing this issue, this stillbirth crisis in our country, and the only way we’re going to do it is with funding,” said Vijayvergiya “So, that’s what I’m trying to help do.”
You can learn more about the SHINE for Autumn Act, and how you can help here https://www.the2degrees.org/shine-for-autumn-act-2022.html
The loss of a child during pregnancy or at birth is something many families experience. If you or someone you care about has endured this experience, and you’d like to learn more about where to find support, you can do so at these links: