Lauren Pratapas, 37, will never forget when an ordinary day turned tragic in April 2022.

The VP of Communications at CNN at the time, Pratapas was living in Washington, DC, and was 16 weeks pregnant. She and her husband John Legittino had just shared the happy news with their families: They were expecting a baby girl.

But after a lunch meeting on April 20, Pratapas experienced lower back pain. At first she assumed it was from the hard bench she’d been sitting on, but by that night, the pain had intensified and was radiating down her legs.

Pratapas contacted her doctor, who said it could be gas. The doctor recommended she walk around and try to use the bathroom. When Pratapas did, she heard a pop. Then, there was a surge of liquid, including blood.

She knew something was wrong.

“The drive to the hospital is a blur, but at the same time I can remember so many things like they were just yesterday,” Pratapas tells PEOPLE exclusively. “Almost like a movie I watched last night before bed. But instead it’s my very own nightmare.”

“My husband kept telling me everything was going to be OK no matter what and how we will get through this together,” she recalls.

“But all I could think about was what I had seen, the pain that I felt, the heavy bleeding I was experiencing and the understanding that all of this love, my hopes and the dreams I had for this little girl and our new family were taken from me in a moment.”

Lauren and her son Jude when he was born in Aug. 2022.

John Legittino

Pratapas later found out she had experienced a complete miscarriage due to a medical condition known as cervical incompetence. This condition, affecting 1-2% of pregnancies, results from a prematurely opening cervix, often leading to second- and third-trimester miscarriages.

Looking back, she believes the experience was due to gaps in the maternal healthcare system. She believes more routine checks could have led to closer monitoring of her cervix, which could have detected the condition earlier. 

“Why does something that has been going on since the dawn of time still feel so archaic, medieval and backwards?” Prapatas tells PEOPLE. “The truth is, so much technology and development has happened as it relates to childbirth, but why doesn’t it feel that way?”

In honor of October’s Pregnancy, Infant and Child Loss Awareness Month, Pratapas is speaking out about the outdated practices in maternal health. 

“I literally lost a child,” she says. “The right test or proactive screening may have detected my cervix shortening and widening — the clear signs of cervical incompetence — but that isn’t the care I was receiving.”

She acknowledges that her situation in general is one of privilege: “I was perfectly healthy, zero preexisting conditions and going to what was considered to be one of the best OBGYN practices in the DC area,” she says.

“I couldn’t help but wonder, if this was my experience as a woman with access to some of the best resources in the country, how were other women being treated?”

Jude was born after his mom suffered a miscarriage.

Cecilie Olaussen

In the aftermath of her loss, Pratapas switched to a more specialized OB-GYN practice. With renewed hope, guidance, and a meticulously planned treatment approach involving a cerclage (a stitch in the cervix), she and her husband decided to start trying again for a baby.

Four months after her miscarriage, Pratapas found out she was pregnant again. On March 23, 2023, she gave birth to a baby boy, Jude Elliott Legittino, who is currently 6 months old.

Now that she has a happy family of 3, Pratapas is sharing her story to raise awareness about cervical incompetence and to de-stigmatize pregnancy loss.

“There are widespread, systematic problems in maternal fetal medicine and women simply deserve better,” Pratapas says.

“I hope that by sharing my journey and how I came out on the other side, it will help spark more conversations, spread more awareness about cervical incompetence and help break down stigmas around pregnancy loss.”


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