Pennington, New Jersey – New Jersey’s first, fully-dedicated stillbirth resource for parents and healthcare providers launched today with the formal debut of the Stillbirth: Can Happen to Any Pregnancy campaign, a multipronged, statewide public health awareness, education and prevention initiative.
A stillbirth is the death or loss of a baby before or during delivery after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Most stillbirths
happen before a pregnant person goes into labor, but a small number happen during labor and birth. Stillbirth
affects about 1 in 175 pregnancies – or 21,000 pregnancies each year in the United States and nearly 700
pregnancies annually in New Jersey.
Stillbirth: Can Happen to Any Pregnancy, which was unveiled at Capital Health Medical Center – Hopewell in Pennington, is the collaboration of perinatal loss expert nurses from the state-licensed maternal child health consortia – Central Jersey Family Health Consortium, Partnership for Maternal and Child Health of Northern New Jersey, Southern New Jersey Perinatal Cooperative and Debbie Haine Vijayvergiya, a renowned stillbirth awareness advocate, with valued input from a family advisory board consisting of New Jersey parents who have experienced stillbirth.
“As the state-licensed maternal and child health consortia serving families across the state, our organizations and partners are deeply invested and committed to raising awareness about this urgent issue facing thousands of New Jersey families,” said Robyn D’Oria, MA, RNC, APN, Chief Executive Officer of Central Jersey Family Health Consortium.“Uniting our experiences and resources for this objective was necessary and it’s our collective hope that it results in a decrease in stillbirths across New Jersey.”
The collaboration, funded by the New Jersey Department of Health, is comprised of:
- NJStillbirth.org, a brand new, comprehensive website in 5 languages with a core mission to raise awareness about stillbirth prevention, offer bereavement support for grieving families and provide downloadable resources and patient guidance for healthcare providers.
- A series of powerful and poignant video public service announcements (PSAs) in English and Spanish centered on testimonials from New Jersey parents with lived experience; the videos are being shared with statewide and regional broadcast outlets with the objective of directing viewers to the NJStillbirth.org website.
“We are grateful to the New Jersey Department of Health for investing in this critical initiative,” said Mariekarl Vilceus-Talty, MA, BSN, President & CEO of the Partnership for Maternal and Child Health of Northern New Jersey. “Experiencing the loss of a baby is devastatingly painful. Grieving parents and families need support, connections and the opportunity to share. Not only will this program provide these much-need resources, but the site’s educational tools can help prevent future tragedies.”“Our work to bring this conversation to the forefront would not have been possible without the contributions of our family advisory board, all of whom who have experienced stillbirth. These are our family members, friends and neighbors right here in New Jersey,” said Helen Hannigan, MGA, President & CEO of Southern New Jersey Perinatal Cooperative. “By publicly sharing the personal, intimate details of their stillbirth journeys, these courageous individuals put names and faces to this crisis so we can better understand it in real terms… beyond the data and statistics. We thank and applaud these parents for their willingness to share their stories and for helping us fulfill this endeavor.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stillbirth occurs in families of all races, ethnicities and income levels, and to birthing individuals of all ages. However, risk of stillbirth is increased among certain groups including individuals who are Black, 35-years of age or older, are of low socioeconomic status, smoke cigarettes during pregnancy, have certain medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity, have multiple pregnancies such as triplets or quadruplets or have experienced a previous pregnancy loss. One of the key warning signs for pregnant individuals is a change in fetal movement during pregnancy.
“The message we want expecting parents to hear and understand is – you know your baby best. If you observe any changes during your pregnancy or have any serious concerns, take immediate action. Don’t wait. It’s critical that you see your provider or go to the hospital emergency department as soon as possible,” said Debbie Haine Vijayvergiya, a Stillbirth: Can Happen to Any Pregnancy collaborator, staunch stillbirth awareness advocate and co-founder of The 2 Degrees Foundation. Haine Vijayvergiya’s daughter, Autumn Joy, was stillborn in 2011. Since then, Haine Vijayvergiya has become a powerful advocate at the state and national level and has championed legislation to raise awareness about stillbirth, including the successful passage and enactment of the bipartisan Autumn Joy Stillbirth Research and Dignity Act, a New Jersey law which establishes policies and procedures for the dignified and sensitive management of each stillbirth. “It’s my sincere wish that the Stillbirth: Can Happen to Any Pregnancy campaign will help to facilitate safe conversations around the risks and realities of stillbirth between expecting parents and providers and encourage and empower pregnant individuals across New Jersey to confidently advocate for themselves and their babies,” added Haine Vijayvergiya.
Among those featured on the Stillbirth: Can Happen to Any Pregnancy website and in the related public service announcements is New Jersey mother Jackie Mancinelli, whose first pregnancy ended in stillbirth.
“For years, I have carried immense, overwhelming grief over the loss of baby Richard. I know others have experienced the same,” said Mancinelli. “It’s my hope that we can honor the memories of our babies by preventing this from happening to others. I want this to be an opportunity for others to amplify their concerns to their healthcare providers. This campaign should serve as an important part of the enduring legacy of our babies. We want to be heard. Our stories need to be told. All pregnant individuals need to be heard.”
In the coming months, advocates and architects of the Stillbirth: Can Happen to Any Pregnancy campaign and a multidisciplinary team of maternal-child health professionals will host community outreach events, town hall forums and information sessions for families and healthcare providers across New Jersey.
Public Service Announcements:
- Link to public service announcement – testimonials #1 (Veronica and Jackie).
- Link to public service announcement – testimonials #2 (Kim and Marise).
- Link to public service announcement – scripted English.
- Link to public service announcement – scripted Spanish.
Broadcast-Quality Links to today’s News Conference:
- Click here for video/b-roll of the news conference.
- Click on links below for video interviews with:
- Veronica Sturgis, Mother and Registered Nurse.
- Jackie Mancinelli, Mother.
- Debbie Haine Vijayvergiya, Mother & Founder, The 2 Degrees Foundation.
- Jennie Sherlock-Loeb, RNC-OB, Director of Clinical & Professional Education, Southern New Jersey Perinatal Cooperative .