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Expectant moms encouraged to ‘Count the Kicks’ each day

Simple program shown to save lives

It’s simple, and it’s effective.

To help avoid stillbirths, women in the third trimester of a pregnancy can "Count the Kicks," by keeping a daily record of their children’s movements in the womb – kicks, rolls, punches or jabs – and alerting their doctors to any changes.

Since Count the Kicks campaigns were initiated in Iowa in 2008, that state’s stillbirth rate has decreased by 26 percent, said Peggy Brown, a nurse with Nebraska Medicine in Omaha and program administrator for the Nebraska Perinatal Quality Improvement Collaborative (NPQIC), which is joining forces with Count the Kicks to raise awareness of the technique.

"In just eight short years, Iowa has gone from having the 33rd worst stillbirth rate to the third lowest in the country," Brown said. "The results of Count the Kicks are incredible, and that’s exactly why we are bringing it here."

Dr. Bob Bonebrake, a member of Christ the King Parish in Omaha, maternal-fetal medicine specialist at Methodist Women’s Hospital in Elkhorn, and a medical director and board member of NPQIC, said he has Count the Kicks material for his patients.

All pregnant women are encouraged to participate, whether in a normal or high risk pregnancy, Bonebrake said.

"It’s easily done, by moms, anywhere they are; it’s low tech and it’s free," Bonebrake said of the program. "It doesn’t cost anything for moms to count the kicks."

Shannon Vaccaro, a member of St. Charles Borromeo Parish near Gretna, is the Nebraska ambassador for Count the Kicks.

She and her husband, Tony, lost a son, Alfy, to stillbirth more than four years ago, and last year through support groups she heard about the Iowa program. Vaccaro volunteered to help, and has been in contact with the Douglas County Health Department, the Visiting Nurses Association and others to spread the word.

Losing her son was difficult and was part of what led her to convert to Catholicism. Her faith and desire to help other mothers is driving her to assist Count the Kicks, she said.

NPQIC was formed two years ago, and the group decided Count the Kicks would be a good addition to its offerings to maternal health care providers across the state, Brown said. Since September, it has been helping fund free distribution of the program’s educational materials to doctors and other medical professionals so it can be widely shared with mothers and fathers, she said.

Count the Kicks is run by a nonprofit group called Healthy Birth Day, which was formed by several women in Iowa who had suffered through stillbirths and wanted to help other mothers avoid a similar tragedy, Brown said.

More information about the program is available online at


Pick a time each day based on when baby is most active, and count 10 kicks, including twists, jabs, pokes and flicks.

Sit with feet up or lie on side. Count each baby movement as one kick. After a few days, a pattern will be seen.

Note baby’s normal movement pattern. Changes in "normal" could be a sign of potential problems and an indication to call a doctor.

Bond with baby in this special time to focus on movements and personality.


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