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Fetal Kick Charts Value Questioned

Although all pregnant women should be able to feel their babies move beyond 20 weeks, a new study questions the reliability of Fetal Kick Charts

Posted: 19 October 2009
by Laura Lee Davies

All pregnant women find it reassuring to feel their babies move and whether noticeable movement starts as early as 16 weeks as a fluttering sensation or the first 'kick' doesn't happen until 20 or 21 weeks, by the time most women are into the second half of their pregnancy, they should expect to feel some movement every day.
However, now researchers from Cork University College Maternity Hospital have called into question how accurate 'fetal kick charts' really are in reliably monitoring the health and wellbeing of the unborn baby.

Using fetal kick charts
Unless there is a specific medical concern, most pregnant women will only get an ultrasound scan to set a fairly certain due date and to check, at around 20 weeks, that fetal growth is progressing well. At other times during check ups, a midwife or GP might listen to the baby's heartbeat and ask if the baby is moving well.
Some doctors use 'fetal kick charts' which require the mother to count the number of kicks within a certain time frame and then the doctor compares these against what is normal for that stage in a pregnancy. In most of the UK these are no longer widely used as an official part of the antenatal check up process, but in some countries (including Ireland) they are still a popular way of checking if the baby is thriving or not.
Now the research suggests that this form of monitoring may not be reliable because it is based on the mother keeping count and recognising each kick accurately. This study is supported by other research which questions how accurate this form of monitoring by midwives or mothers can always be. The research group have called for other forms of standardised assessment to be used, particularly in the case of women in 'at risk' groups where there may already be concern that a problem may arise during pregnancy.
The National institute for Health and Clinical Excellence already recommends that routine fetal movement counting should not provide an aspect of antenatal care.
For more about the report, read the article published on the website of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

Feeling your baby move - your reassurance
Pregnant women do feel reassured by feeling their baby move and there is nothing wrong with still using this as part of your own day to day assessment of how your pregnancy is going. However, the importance placed on this kind of monitoring by some medical practitioners is one of the reasons that as many as 15 per cent of pregnant women end up in hospital at some point during their pregnancy, fearful that they cannot feel their baby move enough.
It is vital if you have any concerns, that you contact your GP or midwife team as soon as possible, but read our tips on monitoring fetal movement before getting unduly worried.

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