Reflections on Jacqueline Kennedy

With the awareness and news coverage this week of the Kennedy assassination, I fell to thinking about the strength of Jacqueline Kennedy.   Not only had she lost her husband but a few months before she had also lost her infant son as a result of premature birth.

Mrs. Kennedy had a history of difficult pregnancies.  She had a miscarriage in 1955, followed by a stillbirth in 1956.  While Caroline was full term, John Jr. was a preemie and of course, her final child, Patrick died after only living 40 hours from what we now call Respiratory Distress Syndrome.   Sadly, this occurred 27 years before the March of Dimes grantees helped develop surfactant therapy, which was introduced in 1990.

Mrs. Kennedy was a heavy smoker and smoked throughout her pregnancies.  This was before the US Surgeon General’s warning was known to the public. Although smoking was more common in those years, no one was aware of the repercussions of smoking during pregnancy. Today, it is still a risk factor for stillbirth, low birth weight babies and prematurity. The Great American Smokeout was yesterday; if you do smoke, please consider quitting.  Smokefree.gov has tips.

I also want to highlight the possible effects of stress in pregnancy. There are several types of stress that can cause problems during pregnancy.  Negative life events, like death in the family, long-lasting stress such as depression and being the wife of the President, could have also played a role.

The loss of any child is difficult; I cannot image the pain she went through.  Premature birth can and does happen to any woman.

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