U Hosts 17th Annual International Stillbirth Alliance Conference


(Photo by Joseph Worden | Courtesy International Stillborn Alliance)

By Allison Stuart, News Writer


This year, the University of Utah hosted the 17th annual International Stillbirth Alliance Conference from Sept. 15-17.

The first conference held in person since 2019, ISA has a goal of bringing, “ALL who care about stillbirth prevention and bereavement support and seek to effect change globally.”

According to the CDC, “Stillbirth affects about 1 in 160 births, and each year about 24,000 babies are stillborn in the United States.” Worldwide, there are an estimated 2.6 million stillbirths each year.

To visually represent this staggering number, the event included a display with 2.6 million sunflower seeds. In addition to the seeds, 7,100 sunflowers were arranged to represent the number of babies stillborn every day.

The event, which had around 230 attendees with representatives from more than 20 countries around the world, also included different sessions and speeches about stillbirth research and parental resources and support.

Stacey Fletcher, a parental representative for Share Parents of Utah, a support group for those touched by a death of a baby through pregnancy, attended the event and is one of the many mothers who’s experienced stillbirth.

“I had an early loss about 10 weeks gestation in 2005,” Fletcher said. “And then I lost a full-term baby, a little boy the following year, Benjamin in 2006.”

Fletcher reflected on the hours after Benjamin was stillborn.

“You just can’t process what is happening and so we really didn’t advocate for ourselves very well,” she said. “And then you know after he was born the nurses asked me if I wanted pictures. And I said ‘No, why would I want to remember this? This is the worst day of my life.’” 

She has since found peace and support through her involvement with ISA and Share Parents of Utah, and as a bereavement photographer, helping other families that are going through the same loss she suffered. 

Parents who have experienced the same loss as Fletcher gathered among physicians and researchers at ISA, the only global conference that focuses on stillbirth.

Dr. Bob Silver, MD, chair of the University of Utah’s OB/GYN department, has spent his career researching healthcare for mothers.

“In the last 30 years I have had a long-standing interest in clinical interest in patients with pregnancy loss and also a long-standing research interest in patients in trying to reduce pregnancy loss, and I’ve been taking care of these patients,” Silver said.

In terms of research being done for stillbirths, Silver said there are two big areas of research focus.

“One is to try to implement things that we already know work to reduce stillbirth, but make sure that they’re done every time for every pregnancy,” Silver said. “And the second focus is to try to discover causes and new ways to prevent stillbirth.”

Fletcher made a speech about PTSD after losing a baby due to stillbirth. She also included a personal essay, titled “Tiny Caskets.” In this essay, Fletcher touches on the uniting factor that she shared with parents from all over the world.

“Sadly, many parents understand the weight of these tiny caskets,” Fletcher said. “They are scattered around the world, weighing the earth down with their heaviness. Race, religion, location is not a consideration. No one is exempt. Power, wealth, medicine and happiness cannot stop these caskets.”

Fletcher said she hopes to stay involved with ISA to help represent parents who have been affected by stillbirth.

[It’s] so great to include parental voices [in the conference],” she said. “I was really surprised and just honored that they would have us as a main part of the conference … along with the clinicians and along with the researchers. We really are like a partnership.”


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