Five Iowa women who lost their babies to stillbirth or infant death are launching a new phase in their campaign to encourage pregnant women to keep track of how often their unborn baby kicks.

Janet Petersen of Des Moines is one of the leaders of the "Count the Kicks" campaign.

"On June 4th, we’re going to introduce the educational materials that we’ve created that we’re hoping to get in every health care provider’s office that delivers babies so that all parents in Iowa have access to information about how to count the kicks in the last trimester," Petersen says.

Petersen’s group has created a colorful pamphlet for doctor’s offices. It includes the testimonial of a woman who noticed her unborn baby wasn’t kicking very much, called her doctor and an exam discovered the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck four times — so an immediate c-section was performed and the baby was saved.

"Most people don’t realize that stillbirths still occur fairly frequently. One out of every 150 pregnancies in the United States ends in stillbirth," Petersen says. "One way that we can help prevent stillbirth is by counting the kicks and if there is any significant change in fetal movement, calling a doctor or medical provider right away to make sure that your baby is o.k."

Petersen is the mother of Grace Elizabeth, who was stillborn in 2003. Four other Des Moines-area women who experienced the stillbirth or infant death of a daughter joined with Petersen to found a volunteer organization to try to help others learn the warning signs. The five are now launching this "Count the Kicks" campaign and they’ve developed a chart to help pregnant moms track their baby’s movement in the womb.

"You know, even in some of the pregnancy books, they I think misinform people by saying there’s not as much room for a baby to move," Petersen says. "But babies do move all the way through pregnancy and it’s just important to track how your baby moves. Some babies move a lot and some babies don’t move that much, but to know the patterns that your baby is showing."

You can find the "count the kicks" chart on-line at www.countthekicks.org .

About 18 months ago, First Lady Mari Culver and Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz recorded public service announcements that encouraged pregnant women to "count the kicks" in the last trimester of their pregnancy.

"One thing I know about Iowans is we’re not complainers and we hate to bother our health care providers, but this is one thing that we really do want expectant parents to call their providers, if they do notice a significant change in the movement of their babies because it could alert them to a problem that they can fix," Petersen says.

Petersen is a state representative and in 2004 she shepherded a bill through the legislature which created a stillbirth registry in Iowa. For the past five years, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control have been reviewing the stillbirth statistics from the state of Iowa and the city of Atlanta, Georgia.

"Now it’s time for them to start looking to see what are the common threads…Is there a difference between urban areas (and) rural areas? Young (and) old?" Petersen says. "…We’re also hoping to get more states involved because the more data that we have, the easier it will be to find those common threads."

Last year there were 26,000 stillborn babies in the United States.

Petersen and the other four women who are part of the "Count the Kicks" campaign will host a fundraiser on June 4th to finance their volunteer effort. Learn more on-line at www.countthekicks.org .