Awareness of fetal movements and pregnancy outcomes

University dissertation from Stockholm : Karolinska Institutet, Dept of Women's and Children's Health

Abstract: Fetal movements are one, among others, of the measurable factors indicating wellbeing of the fetus. Decreased fetal movements are associated with intrauterine growth restriction and stillbirth. Women with experience of stillbirth have often noticed decreased and weaker fetal movements preceding the intrauterine death. Further, seeking care for decreased fetal movements is a common reason for unscheduled contact with health care. The aim of this thesis was to investigate whether a method, aimed to increase women’s awareness of the fetal movement pattern, had an effect on pregnancy outcomes. Further, the thesis aimed to study pregnancy outcomes for women seeking care for decreased or altered fetal movements. In Study I, 2683 women completed questionnaires when they presented for decreased fetal movements, after an examination of their unborn baby, that did not result in any interventions aimed at ending the pregnancy. In Studies II–IV, we evaluated Mindfetalness, a method aimed to increase women’s awareness of the fetal movement pattern. Women were given a leaflet of how to practise Mindfetalness in third trimester: lie down on your side when the baby is awake and focus on the strength, character and frequency of the movements for about 15 minutes daily (but do not count each movement). Women’s attitudes to and compliance with Mindfetalness were investigated in Study II, comprising 104 women. In studies III-IV we studied the effect of Mindfetalness on pregnancy outcomes and, through cluster-randomisation, 19 639 women in Stockholm were randomised to Mindfetalness and 20 226 to routine care. Study IV comprised a sub-analysis, where we compared women born in Somalia and Sweden. Women in the Mindfetalness group (Study III) had spontaneous onset of labour to a higher extent (RR 1.02, CI 1.01–1.03), less cesarean sections (RR 0.95, CI 0.91–0.99) and labour inductions (RR 0.96, CI 0.92–1.00), than women in the Routine-care group. More women in the Mindfetalness group contacted healthcare due to decreased fetal movements (RR 1.72, CI 1.57–1.87). A decreased number of babies born small for gestational age (RR 0.95, CI 0.90–1.00) and those transferred to neonatal care (RR 0.93, CI 0.86–1.00) was seen in the Mindfetalness group. No differences were found in Apgar score <7 at 5 minutes. Women born in Somalia had a higher risk of Apgar score <7 at 5 minutes (RR 2.17, CI 1.19–3.61) and of having a baby small for gestational age (RR 2.19, CI 1.85–2.56), than women born in Sweden (Study IV). The majority of the women had a positive attitude towards Mindfetalness and practised the method daily (Study II). Women contacting healthcare due to decreased fetal movements had labour induction to a higher extent than women not seeking care due to decreased fetal movements (Study I). Increased maternal awareness of fetal movements by Mindfetalness in the third trimester is advantageous for mother and baby. Spontaneous start of labour increased and interventions, notably cesarean sections, decreased. Fewer babies were born small for gestational age and in need of neonatal care. Women expressed having positive attitudes to the method and feelings of safety and calm, when they practised Mindfetalness.

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