Inside Rensselaer
* Linda Layne Unveils New Educational Television Program

Professor Linda Layne has vowed to bring the subject of pregnancy loss to light. She has completed production on Motherhood Lost: Conversations, an 11-episode educational television series that offers an innovative women’s health approach to child-bearing loss.

Linda Layne Unveils New Educational Television Program
A devastating personal experience drove Linda Layne, cultural anthropologist and the Alma and H. Erwin Hale ’30 Professor of Humanities and Social Sciences in the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, to devote two decades to studying issues surrounding pregnancy loss. Nearly 20 percent of all pregnancies end in miscarriage or stillbirth, accounting for nearly one million losses annually in the United States alone.

Today, Layne is a leading international advocate for reform, and has completed production on Motherhood Lost: Conversations, an educational television series developed in collaboration with Heather Bailey, producer, director, and lead graphic designer at George Mason University. The 11-episode program offers an innovative women’s health approach to child-bearing loss.

“Women’s health activists have worked to empower American women during pregnancy and childbirth by educating them about the natural processes and preparing them so they know what to expect and what choices they may have,” said Layne. “Comparable initiatives have not occurred for women whose pregnancies end without a live birth.”

Throughout the series, in conversations with artists, midwives, doctors, nurses, lawyers, religious leaders, and many others, Layne calls for prevention, improved care during a loss, a better public understanding of loss, and the creation of feminist rituals.

Some of the causes for pregnancy loss addressed in the series include exposure to environmental toxins and intimate partner violence. Men’s contribution to loss is also addressed. Layne noted that although most people know that pregnant women should avoid tobacco, alcohol, and drugs, few realize that these substances, a man’s age, and his exposure to environmental toxins can also affect reproductive outcomes.

In the program, one of Layne’s guests, Lynn Paltrow, director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women, explains why arresting women who use drugs during their pregnancies actually increases the likelihood of pregnancy loss, since it discourages women who would most benefit from prenatal care from seeking it. Another guest, Dr. Ruth Fretts of Harvard Medical School, explains how the simple technique of kick counting could prevent some of the 26,000 stillbirths that occur in the U.S. each year.

When Layne became pregnant with her first child at age 30, she wasn’t even aware that it was possible for her to miscarry. “Miscarriage never came up during any of my prenatal visits,” Layne said. “And I devoured pregnancy books, eager to learn about the minute details of my baby’s development — but they, too, failed to mention the topic of pregnancy loss.”

After suffering the first of seven heartbreaking miscarriages, Layne vowed to bring the subject of pregnancy loss to light. In 2003, after nearly two decades of research, Layne published Motherhood Lost: A Feminist Account of Pregnancy Loss in America (Routledge, 2003). The book called to light the lack of information and physical and emotional support available to women whose pregnancies end without a live birth.

Since then, Layne has been speaking out on the need for pregnancy loss healthcare policy reform and lecturing at universities, hospitals, and conferences across the country and in the U.K. on society’s shortcomings when it comes to educating, caring for, and supporting women who have suffered losses.

Layne noted that the Motherhood Lost: Conversations television series provides the ideal opportunity to create more public awareness and support for pregnancy loss. The first episode, which premiered in 2006, received acclaim from the television and film community, garnering Layne a prestigious Gracie Award for “outstanding talk show,” a Silver Davey award, and a 2006 Bronze Telly Award. The program has gone on to win 12 national and international awards.

Layne has high hopes for the programs. “I’d like to see the shows become educational resources on television, and available in public libraries as well as medical school and nursing school libraries,” she said. “We’re moving into a new stage now of not just offering support after losses occur but becoming more proactive, and that is wonderful news to me.”

Layne noted that each 30-minute episode has a companion curriculum that is appropriate for continuing education and college classroom use. The shows are available for streaming, and the curriculum — which is free of charge — is also available for downloading.

To view the program Motherhood Lost: Conversations and to download the curriculum materials, go to
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Inside Rensselaer
Volume 4, Number 5, March 19, 2010
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