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High US stillbirth rate preventable, docs say at U of U facility opening

By Jamie Lampros - Special to the Standard-Examiner | May 22, 2024

Photo supplied, University of Utah

Pictured, from left, are Dr. Rana Jawish, Jaymie Maines and Dr. Bob Silver.

SALT LAKE CITY — On Oct. 19, 2009, Mark and Jaymie Maines were told their full-term baby boy no longer had a heartbeat.

Admitted to the hospital and forced to deliver her stillborn son, Jaymie Maines said she had very little support or compassion from her health care provider.

“He was there to do a job and it was obvious neither he nor I wanted to be there,” she said. “The nights after James passed, I was desperate to talk to someone who had a similar loss.”

Maines searched the internet and found a group of women who shared similar stories.

When she wanted to become pregnant again, Maines was terrified of experiencing another loss.

“I was referred to Dr. (Bob) Silver’s office and my anxiety was paralyzing,” she said. “But he sat at the table and discussed our loss with us. I was not just a number. He showed real interest in my loss and mental health.”

Silver, chair of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at the Spencer Fox Eccles School of Medicine at the University of Utah, is now the lead maternal-fetal medicine specialist at the new Utah Pregnancy After Loss Program at University of Utah Health. The multidisciplinary program is the first of its kind in the region and one of the first in the nation to provide both medical and mental health to families suffering from stillbirth losses.

During a press conference and ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new facility last week, Silver spoke about the new program.

“Stillbirth is really one of the saddest and devastating pregnancy complications and it’s far too common in the United States,” he said. “Stillbirth affects 1 in 175 pregnancies. Even though the U.S. has considerable resources, our rate of stillbirth is much higher than that of similar countries.”

Silver said the clinic will work hard to provide better treatment, both medically and emotionally, to try to improve outcomes of future pregnancies.

“This program has been developed with the help of families who have been through this,” he said. “They have said, ‘This is what we need and these are the things we’re not getting from the medical system.’ We want you to be heard and give you the best medical and emotional outcomes we can.”

Dr. Rana Jawish, lead psychiatrist and assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at University of Utah Health, said up to 70% of women who have experienced pregnancy loss have had symptoms of anxiety, intrusive memories, flashbacks and fear.

“This meets the criteria of post-traumatic stress disorder,” she said. “Screening and treating these complications, along with providing medical care, is essential to improve the overall outcome. We need to do better at preventing future pregnancy loss and work on the research part.”

The new program is modeled after the Rainbow Clinic, which was developed by Alex Heazell at the University of Manchester. The new clinic will offer a tailored approach to care by combining medical expertise with compassion and support for individuals and families. The program also will provide an opportunity for families to participate in research studies.

“We have a lot to learn and a lot of work to do,” Silver said. “That’s where our team will tackle these issues. We need to do better in preventing pregnancy loss, and our data will help in the research part.”

Since her loss in 2009, Maines said Silver has delivered three of her children.

“He showed genuine care and interest and even called me while he was boarding a plane to see how I was doing,” she said. “That goes a long way for a mother who originally felt abandoned by her health care provider.”

The National Institutes of Health reports that more than 20,000 pregnancies each year are lost at 20 weeks or more. The report, titled “Working to Address the Tragedy of Stillbirth,” states how critical it is for patients to have access to specialized and holistic care after experiencing such a loss.

To schedule an appointment with the clinic, call 801-581-7746.


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