MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Shamari Cooke never expected that downloading a free app called Count the Kicks to track her baby’s movements during pregnancy would help save her daughter’s life. During pregnancy, Cooke learned about the importance of kick counting from her obstetrician/gynecologist, who suggested she use the Count the Kicks app to monitor her baby’s well-being. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists a change in baby’s movements as one of its 15 urgent maternal warning signs.
“My OB was insistent that I count kicks every day in the third trimester to help me track my daughter’s health. I created my kick counting routine based on when I noticed that my daughter was most active. The app was so easy to use and did help me learn my baby’s kicking habits,” said Cooke.
Count the Kicks is an evidence-based public health campaign that teaches expectant parents the method for and importance of tracking their baby’s movements daily in the third trimester of pregnancy. The Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) brought the program to the state in 2021. Research proves the importance of tracking fetal movement, and Count the Kicks encourages expectant parents to get to know the normal movement pattern for their baby by having daily kick counting sessions using the free Count the Kicks app. When the amount of time it takes to get to 10 movements changes, this could be a sign of potential problems and is an indication to call their provider.
Thanks to the app and monitoring Aspen’s movements every evening after dinner, Cooke noticed when her baby wasn’t moving like normal. “It was very typical for my baby to be active when I laid down at bedtime, but on this day she was not. As I reflected, I realized the last time I felt her was several hours earlier. As the evening went on, my husband and I became more worried and decided to go to the emergency room around midnight to have our baby checked,” she said.
Cooke received a non-stress test when she arrived at the hospital, and her care team found that her fluid level was very low despite having no symptoms. She was admitted and placed on IV fluids. When her fluid levels remained low, her care team made the decision to induce her.
“My husband and I are so grateful that my doctor shared the importance of kick counting, had the Count the Kicks educational materials and was also willing to take my concerns seriously when I spoke up,” Cooke said.
Data in the Count the Kicks app acts as an early warning system for expectant parents so they can let their providers know when something feels off. Kick counting data within the app can even be emailed or texted directly to providers — a helpful way to determine the next best steps for mom and baby.
Thanks to a partnership with the ADPH, nurses, doctors and hospital staff are able to order free Count the Kicks brochures, app download reminder cards and posters to place in offices that care for pregnant patients and to share with expectant parents.
“Count the Kicks is a powerful tool in helping expectant parents evaluate and track their baby’s movements,” said Samille J. Jackson, maternal and child health coordinator. “We are committed to improving birth outcomes and reducing stillbirths in Alabama, and we are proud to partner with Count the Kicks to provide these free evidence-based tools to families in our state. We are happy to know these resources were able to save a life and hope they will save many more in our great state.”
Every year in the U.S. 23,500 babies are stillborn, according to the CDC, and an average of 534 babies are stillborn each year in Alabama. For expectant Alabamians, 1 in every 111 pregnancies will end in stillbirth. Disparities persist, and Black women are two times more likely to lose a baby to stillbirth than their white neighbors, friends or colleagues. Recent research has also identified significant increases in stillbirth and maternal death since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
In Iowa, where Count the Kicks began, the state’s stillbirth rate dropped by nearly 32% in the first 10 years of the campaign (2008-2018). In the first five years of the campaign, stillbirth rates for African American families in Iowa dropped a promising 39%. Iowa went from the 33rd worst stillbirth rate in the country to third lowest, while the country’s rate as a whole remained relatively stagnant.