For expecting parents, the months leading up to birth can be filled with excitement and hopes for what will be. But for some, however, the pandemic has changed that as it has led to more stillbirths across the country and world.
On Sept. 16, 2020, two months of anticipation of a brighter future in spite of a pandemic that had already taken so much ended for Shaun and Kaleen Juckett in the ultrasound room of a hospital with a stranger.
“[The nurse] told me I’m sorry I don’t hear a heartbeat but I have to finish, so I had to lay there,” recalled Kaleen. “I actually just laid there and cried quietly, and I literally just counted the dots on the ceiling tile until I could get out.”
At the end of July, the couple found out that after months of trying, Kaleen was pregnant. High school sweethearts, the couple was ecstatic, until they woke up one morning in early September.
“It was about 10 weeks and two or three days and I woke up in the morning and I was bleeding,” said Kaleen. “They say you can spot, but I didn’t feel like it was spotting it felt different.”
During the pandemic, researchers from the U.K. and Turkey found that among 6 million pregnancies across the globe, including the U.S., the chances of stillbirth increased by 28 percent, and the risk of women dying while pregnant or during childbirth increased by a third in some cases.
“It was harder and harder for women to get to get to their prenatal care visits, even when the visits were available,” said Dr. Denise Jamieson, a professor and chair of Emory’s Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics. “They might have transportation issues because they can’t take public transportation. They may have childcare issues; they have no one to take care of their children.”
The losses led to increases in postpartum depression and anxiety that a pregnancy wouldn’t go well, according to the research.
Researchers found surgeries for ectopic pregnancies, where the fertilized egg grows outside the uterus, increased by six times.
“We see here that pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to the indirect effects of COVID,” said Dr. Jamieson.
A few months ago, the Jucketts planted a tree in their side yard--in memory of a baby they would have nicknamed Bean--so they never forget what would have been.
“It’s a dream that is replaced by a sense of guilt, physical pain, and emotional pain,” expressed Kaleen.