June 2015 is Sands (the Stillbirth and Neonatal death charity) awareness month. The charity’s research indicates that 100 babies will die each week during the month of June. The charity’s mission is to fund research into the reasons for this and to provide support to those who have lost a baby.
The advice given to pregnant mothers about monitoring their baby’s movement has changed significantly over recent years. But in the sad cases of stillbirth that we see, the midwives and/or obstetricians in charge of the mothers’ care have often provided outdated advice.
Historically, pregnant women were told that all was well with their unborn baby if they felt 10 movements a day. They are also occasionally, and incorrectly, advised that babies often go quiet just before labour.
This incorrect advice can falsely reassure mothers and persuade them not to seek medical advice when they are concerned that their baby’s movements have suddenly altered.
The current guidance from the Royal College of Gynaecologists states that the average number of movements per hour is 31 and the longest period between movements ranges from 50 to 75 minutes.
Foetal movements during the latter part of pregnancy are known to change in line with the development of the baby. As the baby gets bigger and has less space to move in the uterus, the way he moves and his normal pattern of movement will inevitably change but, importantly, movements will continue.
Research shows that the unborn baby’s movements become more episodic with cycles of apparent ‘sleep’ and activity. These episodes are intermittent during the day but, generally, do not equate to a reduction in movements. The most important thing to know is what is normal for your baby and to report any change to this.
The majority of women who experience a stillbirth report a perceived reduction in movements prior to the diagnosis, which is one of the reasons why it is so important for a mother-to-be to get to know her unborn child’s pattern of behaviour.
Helen Hammond, associate in the clinical negligence team in Basingstoke, comments: “Suffering a stillbirth or neonatal death is devastating for a family and we support any efforts to reduce the number of people who are forced to face this terrible experience.”