Increased Risk Of Stillbirth Linked To Timing Of Babies’ Movements

Increased Risk Of Stillbirth Linked To Timing Of Babies’ Movements

By the time you reach the last trimester of your pregnancy, you are used to your baby’s movements.

You can be on the go all day and not really notice your baby moving about.

But sit down for five minutes and you will be compensated with big kicks and belly rolls.

Increased Risk Of Stillbirth Linked To Timing Of Babies’ Movements

There are quite a few myths about fetal movements and what you should watch out for.

Always be guided by your care provider’s advice and never hesitate to seek medical assistance if you notice changes in your baby’s movements.

New research has found there is an increased risk of stillbirth when babies’ movements are reduced during the evening hours.

What Is Normal Fetal Movement?

It’s difficult to know what ‘normal’ means. Every baby is different.

Some will sleep all day and move most at night when you are sleeping.

Other babies seem always to be moving a little bit, whether it’s having hiccups for hours or making little fluttering movements.

Babies actually rest and sleep in utero – sometimes for up to 17 hours a day. These periods of rest or sleep last for about 40-50 minutes at a time.

When you are busy and moving about, you are less ‘tuned in’ to the movements your baby makes. Many pregnant mamas find their movement lulls their babies to sleep – which often continues after birth, as most babies respond to movement by falling asleep.

You can read more in Baby Kicking – 9 Facts You Need To Know.

New Study Shows Timing Is Important

Researchers from the University of Auckland have recently uncovered a link between an increased risk of stillbirth and babies being quieter during the evening.

Midwife and PhD student, Billie Bradford, presented the research at the annual congress of the Perinatal Society of Australia and New Zealand.

The study explored potential risk factors for stillbirths across seven of New Zealand’s largest district health boards.

Researchers interviewed 164 women who had a stillbirth at 28 weeks or later, as well as a control group of 569 women with an ongoing pregnancy at the same stage.

The study’s aim was to gather information about any differences in fetal movements in women who had experienced a stillbirth compared with those reported by women with an ongoing pregnancy.

What Did The Study Find?

Previous research has shown there is an increased risk of late stillbirth when there is a decrease in both the frequency and the strength of fetal movements.

This new study takes this information one step further. Bradford’s research found the women who reported their babies were quiet in the evening had more than a threefold increase in the risk of stillbirth.

A baby being ‘quiet’ in the womb is described as having fewer and weaker movements than normal. The control group reported strong fetal movements in the evening, which is when babies are typically more active.

What Does This Mean For Me?

Stillbirth is something no parent wants to think about. However, it is estimated over half of all stillbirths could be prevented, and this new research certainly highlights the need to be aware of when to seek medical assistance.

It’s important for pregnant women to be aware of their babies’ movements, and to note the ‘normal’ patterns for their babies.

If you become aware of decreased fetal movement at any time of the day, immediately seek medical assistance.

Like most women, you will notice your baby is more or less active at particular times of the day. If you find yourself wondering what your baby is up to, lie down for a few hours and note how many movements you feel (it should be at least 10 movements).

And although it might not seem possible for your baby to have much room to move in the last few weeks of pregnancy, it is not true babies move less after 36 weeks. They have less room to make big movements but should still be moving normally.

In the late afternoon and evening, set aside some time to relax quietly and tune into your baby’s activity. It will give you peace of mind.

Research into normal fetal movement patterns at various times of the day highlights how important it is for women to have access to support when they’re concerned about their baby’s movements. It could potentially save babies’ lives.

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Sam McCulloch Dip CBEd CONTRIBUTOR

Sam McCulloch enjoyed talking so much about birth she decided to become a birth educator and doula, supporting parents in making informed choices about their birth experience. In her spare time she writes novels. She is mother to three beautiful little humans.


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