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'Why Didn't Anyone Tell Me?' Mother-To-Be Blindsided By Stillbirth

In hindsight, Kim Phillips said she knew something was wrong.

"My entire pregnancy, I just never had a good feeling the whole way through," she told 10 daily.

The pregnancy itself was fine -- "perfect", even -- with Phillips tracking her baby's size from grape, to fig, to avocado.

But she was anxious, like many first time mums, particular ones who have gone through multiple rounds of IVF to have a baby.

When her baby had grown to the size of a head of romaine lettuce, Phillips worried his movements were slowing down. Not wanting to be the "irrational first-time mother", she said nothing.

A few weeks later, her waters broke. Everything except her intuition told her it was fine. But things were slow to progress, and when Phillips developed a fever early the next morning, she was rushed into surgery for a C-section.

At 7.01am on October 30th, her son Jack arrived into this world and never took a breath. He was stillborn.

"There's a lot of people in the loss community who say they knew they were never bringing that child home," Phillips said, fighting back tears.

"I feel like that."

stillborn
Phillips Photo: Michelle Bova / Supplied.
'Why didn't anyone warn me?'

Six babies are stillborn in Australia every single day.

For families who experience a stillbirth, the loss can be shattering, with research telling us -- perhaps unnecessarily -- that it's a profound, life-altering experience.

The latest data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare tells us this number hasn't decreased in three decades, despite significant technological and medical advances.

READ MORE: Unacceptable Number Of Stillbirths In Australia A 'Call To Arms'

Yet despite the pervasiveness of stillbirths, many families who experience it feel they weren't warned about it.

"I think that's one of the most common statements I hear," Claire Foord, founder of the Still Aware charity, told 10 daily.

"Why didn't anyone tell me this was possible? Why didn't I know about this? Why was I blindsided?"

Many women who experience stillbirth say they weren't warned about the possibility while pregnant. Photo: Getty.

Stillbirth is the common form of child mortality in the country, claiming the lives of one in every 135 babies. It disproportionately affects Indigenous or Torres Strait Islander women, those aged 20 or below, first-time mothers, and pregnancies where there are three or more fetuses.

In 2014, Foord's own daughter Alfie was stillborn. Foord said if she was armed with information about warning signs, her baby would "100 percent" be alive today.

"It makes you angry, because you think, what if? What if I had known?"

READ MORE: Mother Of Stillborn Baby Gets Apology From Facebook Then Hit With Adoption Ads

Foord said around half of stillbirths are preventable, and yet vital information around preventing the tragedy is not being communicated to expectant mothers.

"We're talking about three babies a day that we could be saving if everybody was sharing information."

Dr Jonathan Morris, a leading obstetrician and a professor of obstetrics at the University of Sydney, conceded the research and clinical community has been "far too slow" in coming up with a public health recommendation, but that is swiftly changing.

"I think there's good bipartisan support in Canberra, the additional funding is very welcome, and it's also pleasing the research community is coming together on this issue," Morris told 10 daily.

In December last year, following a Senate inquiry into stillbirth the federal government announced $7.2 million in initiatives designed to reduce stillbirths, including $3 million for education and awareness programs for both women and medical practitioners.

Through his work as director of the Every Week Counts initiative, Morris is also set to release an educational tool for women and doctors around preventing stillbirth this month.

"We're seeing unprecedented collaboration to address what is a public health issue," Morris said.

Labor Senator Kristina Keneally penned a powerful piece about her own stillbirth last year. Photo: AAP.

A major issue Morris, Foord and Phillips want to see addressed is around empowering mothers to understand their own pregnancies and be able to alert medical professionals if they start to feel the baby slow down.

"There's still, unfortunately, a perception babies slow down towards the end of pregnancy, and that's certainly not the case," Morris said.

READ MORE: Push To Provide Parents Of Stillborn Babies With Paid Parental Leave

Both Foord and Phillips advocate for knowing your baby's movements and alerting a medical professional when they change, rather than monitor a 'kick count' or drink something cold or sweet to stimulate movement.

October, as well as being Pregnancy and Infant Loss awareness month, also brings what would have been Jack's first birthday.

Phillips is planning a memorial for Jack on what would have been his first birthday. Photo: Michelle Bova / Supplied.

Phillips never had a funeral for Jack, so she's planning a small memorial with friends and family in the park, where she'll bake a cake topped with the woodland creatures she bought for her son while pregnant.

She's also fundraising for both Still Aware and Bears of Hope, a charity which provides 'cuddle cots' for parents of stillborn babies which allows them to spend a week with their child, bathing and clothing them and creating memories.

For Phillips, her advocacy is partly driven out of ensuring her tragedy doesn't become another woman's when it might have been prevented.

"I just want to raise awareness, so I might save one baby," she said.

Contact the author: abrucesmith@networkten.com.au