Stillbirths: a Gatineau woman asks Canada to act

In 2012, Nadine Belzile was pregnant with her second child. In her womb, little Judith was swarming as long as her mother nicknamed her her baby kickboxing.

At its 37e week of pregnancy, Judith began to move less. I waited a few days to see my doctor as part of an appointment already scheduled to talk to him about it. She told me it was normal for babies to move less in late pregnancy, tells Nadine Belzile, in her courtyard, in Aylmer.

However, this tenacious belief is false. A baby will move until delivery. At the end of the pregnancy, the movements may be a little different; it will roll more than knock. But the number of moves is going to be there anyway, she explains.

Two days later, Judith wasn’t moving at all. Nadine and her husband went to the hospital, but it was already too late: on September 18, 2012, at 38 weeks pregnant, she gave birth to a stillborn baby girl.

Requested actions

Quebec considers a stillbirth to be the death of a fetus when it reaches a weight of 500 grams or at the 28e week of pregnancy. But not all Canadian provinces have the same definition.

Since its launch last October, Ms. Belzile’s virtual petition has collected more than 700 signatures. The document calls for the country to deploy an awareness campaign on the risks of stillbirth and the importance of fetal movement during the third trimester of pregnancy, and that a national review committee be formed to address this phenomenon as than a public health issue.

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Nadine Belzile wants Canada to follow the path traced by other Western countries such as England, Scotland and Australia, which have adopted action plans in this area. Strategies that bear fruit: in two years, the British government has calculated that its approach entitled Saving Babies’ Lives Care Bundle had reduced the number of stillbirths in the hospitals evaluated by 20%. Researchers and politicians from these countries have also supported Ms. Belzile’s campaign by sending letters to Federal Minister of Health Patty Hajdu.

The member for Gatineau, Steven MacKinnon, sponsored this petition. In an interview, he said he intended to challenge the government on the subject. I think the government must examine this issue in depth and make it a strategy, he commented.

Gatineau MP Steven MacKinnon believes the federal government can play a “catalytic” role on the issue of stillbirths.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Hugo Belanger

This is the first step, the response to a petition, but it certainly won’t be the last.

A quote from:Steven MacKinnon, MP for Gatineau

A neglected problem

Professor in the Department of Nursing Sciences and holder of the Canada Research Chair in the Psychosocial Health of Families, Francine de Montigny, who is also a nurse, considers perinatal death to be a neglected public health issue.

After 20 years of research, what I still see today is that the care is done according to the goodwill of health professionals, depending on whether it is a priority for them. But there is no clear guideline to this effect, she comments.

There are a lot of actions that are not taken, not reviewed, and we are very much in the status quo, she laments.

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For example, Quebec has endowed its health and social services network with the Perinatal policy 2008-2018, where there were six items that were quite valid for awareness, promotion and prevention of perinatal deaths, but there was not really a set up, structure to ensure that there was something that is done, deplores the nurse.

What we do know, however, is that miscarriages, there are many that would be preventable if they were treated differently, as well as stillbirths., confirms Ms. de Montigny.

Francine de Montigny in an interview on the radio.

Nurse Francine de Montigny, professor in the Department of Nursing and holder of the Canada Research Chair in the psychosocial health of families

Photo: Radio-Canada / Pascal Michaud

Today, Nadine Belzile has become the mother of a second healthy boy. But the impact of Judith’s hasty departure on her psychological health has been such that she can no longer work. She filed a complaint with the College of Physicians, without result.

To raise awareness among other parents, she set up the Bébé Facebook page. At the moment, she is looking for grants to make it a French speaking website that will talk about the movements of babies in the third trimester.

Whatever the government’s response, Nadine Belzile’s awareness campaign will go ahead, she said.

There is no parent who should experience the death of their baby if that death can be avoided. Then, if it can be avoided as simply as counting the baby’s movements during the third trimester of pregnancy, let’s go.