As Amanda Brezina neared the end of her pregnancy with her second son, something went dramatically wrong.
Brezina had noticed a decrease in his movement at one point during the third trimester – little did she know, he had suffered a stroke in utero. After an emergency c-section and several minutes of CPR, doctors were able to resuscitate him.
Her son is healthy today, but that experience led Brezina to join Count the Kicks, a national public health campaign being led by the nonprofit organization Healthy Birth Day, Inc. The campaign helps expecting mothers prevent stillbirths and infant deaths by tracking fetal movement in the third trimester of pregnancy, Brezina said.
The app allows mothers to track kicking, rolling, poking and elbowing during the third trimester of pregnancy, Brezina explained, which will alert them to any unusual and potentially life-threatening changes in movement.
“No one ever told me what is normal movement, so I didn’t know the difference,” she said.
The Healthy Birth Day organization is based in Iowa, where Brezina was living when she first began volunteering for the nonprofit. She has since moved to Verona, where she has continued to further the mission of the Count the Kicks campaign as its Wisconsin ambassador.
Brezina said she’s passionate about the campaign because it validates the feelings that expectant mothers intuitively feel, but aren’t sure about being right, and provides information to either reassure or alert them of an issue. In the case of her second son’s birth, when Brezina noticed he had stopped moving.
When Brezina asked family members about it, they advised her everything was fine.
“I believed the people around me, I didn’t know any better,” she said. “Parents shouldn’t rely on people around them, they should rely on information and data that empowers the life of the baby.”
Having the app doesn’t require a mother to have to mentally track movement – instead, it creates a history that can be referred back to, and provides mothers who are expecting multiples to count each child’s movement.
“I think that’s what is so powerful about this campaign, it’s not just asking a mom to rely on intuition or remember what has happened over the past few days,” Brezina said. “It can be seen with numbers – it gives numbers or data to moms to trust their own intuition.”
According to a news release, the app has been downloaded more than 100,000 times across all 50 U.S. states and more 140 other countries and is available in 12 languages. Data within the app can be emailed or texted directly to healthcare providers.
Brezina said she “without a doubt absolutely would have noticed much sooner” that her son’s life was in trouble if she’d had access to an app like Count the Kicks at the time. She said the Count the Kicks app, available for free on both the Apple and Google Play stores, helped Iowa reduce stillbirths by 32% during its first decade.
Her goal is to reduce stillbirths in Wisconsin by 30%. Right now, Brezina said state statistics show an average of 331 babies are stillborn in the state each year.
Instead, she’s hoping her efforts will lead to 106 of those babies being saved a year.
Brezina said her role as an ambassador involves encouraging people to learn more about the app and to encourage hospitals, physicians and clinics to recommend the app to patients.
Much of what she normally would be doing in the role she cannot do during the pandemic, such as attending fairs for expectant mothers and baby expos where she would have handed out fliers to teach people about the app. Though, she is spending time writing letters to hospitals to inform them about this campaign.
“It’s something too simple to not have out there — tracking fetal movement, or ‘kick counting’ can be accessible to everyone,” she said. “Anyone can do it, it’s easy to understand and it doesn’t cost anybody anything.”