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PREGNANCY DURING A PANDEMIC: Fetal movement program helps save Waterloo baby

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Amanda and Garrett Ramthun
Amanda, Garrett, Quinn, and Everett Ramthun

WAVERLY, Iowa (KWWL) -- The Coronavirus has prevented many from even thinking of going to the hospital, but for one expecting mother a program called 'Count the Kicks' helped her overcome her hesitation, potentially saving her babies life.

Waterloo Mother, Amanda Ramthun was pregnant with her second child. She and her husband Garrett were excited to expand their family but little did they know it would happen amid a public health crisis.

"Our first pregnancy we didn't have any complications everything was smooth sailing. She went full term, actually overdue and so I guess we just assumed that this time it would be the same," said Amanda Ramthun.

However, baby Everett was born premature and gave his parents a serious scare.

"I went in for my 36-week appointment, just routine and everything was great. The heartbeat was good, we actually even had an ultrasound that day and he was measuring right on track. Then the next day I noticed that he wasn't moving as much as he normally was," said Amanda.

She had learned to track fetal movements through the 'Count the Kicks' program.

Dr. Barbra Weno, an OBGYN at Waverly Health Clinic, where Everett was born said mothers can begin to feel babies move as soon as 16 weeks. Although first-time mothers may not feel their babies until closer to 21 weeks.

"Every baby has a little bit different activity pattern and all babies are awake for a certain amount of time and then they sleep but on average, it's about 20 minutes awake, 20 minutes of sleep," said Weno.

The 'Count the Kicks' program started in Iowa in 2007 after five Des Moines area moms lost their baby girls to stillbirth said Executive Director, Emily Price.

"A change in fetal movement is the earliest and sometimes only indication that there might be an issue with the pregnancy. And so what we want expectant moms to do is once a day sit down and have a kick counting session," said Price.

Dr. Weno said the program allows providers to partner with mothers to get more good information.

"So we ask them every time they come into their appointments. Are you feeling the baby move? How often is the baby moving," said Weno.

Amanda had grown accustomed to Everett's kicks and noticed the day after her ultrasound, he was not moving as much as he normally would.

"After kind of going back and forth like am I overreacting and I also didn't want to go into the clinic if I didn't need to because I didn't want to be exposed to COVID if it was unnecessary but I'm glad that I did call," said Amanda.

Amanda went in for testing, it took nurses a while to get vitals on the baby. Finally, a doctor told Amanda she was worried.

Garrett recalled his reaction after hearing the news that his would be delivered that night.

"She said, you need to call grandma and have her come watch Quinn so that you can come up because we're having a baby tonight. So I was pretty thrown off at first but I was like, what's wrong? What's happening," said Garrett.

Baby Everett arrived four weeks early, delivered that night via emergency c-section. Doctor's discovered his umbilical cord had wrapped around his neck three times.

"She said that's why he wasn't moving the way that he should be and he wasn't getting the blood and the nutrients that he needed either," said Amanda.

The ultrasound does not always catch everything said Dr. Weno, such as issues with the placenta.

"I've had several times where moms haven't felt their baby for a few days and I don't know what, if they just were scared to call, or just felt there being a bother to call. But no, please call us we want to know that," said Weno.

Since 'Count the Kicks' began in Iowa stillbirth rates have dropped 32%, while U.S. rates remained stagnant.

Via Count the Kicks website

"So we know Count the Kicks is working in Iowa, Everett it is just one of many examples," said Price.

Dr. Weno said the risk of stillbirth is rare, occurring in less than 1% of pregnancies.

However, the program can be especially important for African American mothers who are twice as likely to experience a stillbirth.

"We also know within that 32% reduction of stillbirth here in Iowa in the past decade, in the first five years, the African American stillbirth rate went down 39%," said Price.

Everett, a happy, healthy little baby is home with his family after spending some time in the NICU, all thanks to his mom's intuition.

"I didn't want to go in because I didn't want to be exposed if I was overreacting or if I really didn't need to but the outcome could have been very different if I didn't," said Amanda.

Dr. Weno said counting your kicks should occur everyday beginning at 28 weeks or 26 weeks if the mother is considered high risk. Mothers should look for 10 kicks in 2 hours, there's even a free app 'Count the Kicks'.

So far, 110,000 expectant mothers have used the app. It also helped alert an expecting mother in Alabama during the pandemic something was wrong. Now both she and her baby are doing well.

Author Profile Photo

Ashley Neighbor

Reporter, Cedar Rapids

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