Ally Kerslake and son Phoenix.
Ally Kerslake and son Phoenix. CONTRIBUTED

Mum recalls last time her baby boy's heart beat

IT WAS October 1, 2016 when Ally Kerslake was rushed to Mackay Base Hospital.

The 19 year old was four days overdue and she could sense something was not right with her baby.

"I went to the labour ward at the Base numerous times because of decreased movement from the baby and each time I was sent away," Mrs Kerslake said.

"At 40 weeks and 2 days, the baby's heart rate was measured at 200 beats per minute and the midwife in training told me he was 'happy'."

This would be the last time Miss Kerslake heard her baby boy's heart beat.

Two days later,  after she said she was sent home again, Miss Kerslake would give birth to her stillborn baby boy Luca.

"The staff at the hospital could not find a cause for the stillbirth. I was told they had found something in the placenta that may have caused a blockage of insulin from my body to the baby's," Ms Kerslake said.

"Apparently the baby was creating his own insulin and it was too much for his system to handle.

"I blame a lack of education. If a mother comes in multiple times for reduced movement, her concerns should be taken seriously - she should not be sent away."

Stillbirths occur when a baby is born with without a heartbeat or respiration at 20 weeks gestation or with a birth weight of at least 400g.

There are many reasons a stillbirth can occur. Congenital anomalies are the most common cause. They cause about 30 per cent of stillbirths. Almost 20 per cent of stillbirths have no identified cause.

An Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report released this month has revealed shocking data about the static national rate of stillbirths.

Statistics show the rates of stillbirth in Australia have not considerably decreased in decades, with 3.4 stillbirths per 1000 births in 1997 to 2.1 stillbirths per 1000 births in 2016.

Stillbirth Foundation Australia chief Kate Lynch said six babies were stillborn each day in Australia and up to a third of those stillbirths were preventable.

"The hard truth is the national stillbirth toll dwarfs the national road toll, and if this report is not a call to arms for governments, policy-makers and the medical profession, I don't know what is," Ms Lynch said.

"We look forward to the government's response to this report and continuing discussions with policy-makers."

Ms Lynch said when it came to stillbirth, there were things that could reduce the rate of stillbirth but were not reflected in current advice or medical practice.

"Australia is not doing enough and can do better. Our stillbirth rate is much higher than countries such as the UK and New Zealand," Ms Lynch said.

"Stillbirth rates are still significantly higher among indigenous people, and people in rural and regional areas, and we can do better than that, too."

On a brighter note, Ms Kerslake has gone on to have two successful pregnancies but it has not been easy.


Mackay Hospital and Health Service chief Jo Whitehead.
Mackay Hospital and Health Service chief Jo Whitehead. Tony Martin

"The potential of stillbirth was always in the back of my mind and it affected my anxiety levels in the later stages of pregnancy when there is less movement," she said.

"Luckily I was offered support counselling and saw special high-risk obstetricians. I was treated amazingly during following pregnancies and there was plenty of emotional support."

Mackay Hospital and Health Service chief Jo Whitehead said it was the hospital's policy not to comment on individual patients.

"At any stage of pregnancy or following birth, the death of a baby is a tragic experience that is unique for every bereaved parent and their family," Ms Whitehead said.

"MHHS provides mothers and families of a stillborn baby with respectful care during their pregnancy and following the birth of their baby.

"The bereaved parent and family are offered a range of support by a multi-disciplinary team.

"A private, comforting room is provided to mothers and families where they are encouraged to spend as much time as they wish with their baby after birth.

"Additionally, a partnership with Stillborn and Newborn Death Support offers mothers and families access to specially trained parent supporters."

Ms Lynch said one thing people could to help was to donate.

"A large amount of the funding for education of parents and medical research is done by organisations like ours, representing families of stillborn kids trying to prevent the tragedy happening to someone else," she said.

"Education of parents, medical professionals and policy makers and funding medical research, are all expensive, and we would welcome support to make worthy investments into saving kids' lives."

For more information on stillbirths in Australia visit:

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