Interest for maternal fetal movement counting as a method
of screening for fetal well-being boomed during the
1970s and 1980s. Several reports demonstrated that the
introduction of counting charts significantly reduced stillbirth
rates. However, in 1989, a large study appeared in
The Lancet that annihilated research in this field by
deeming charts ineffective. In retrospect, it seems evidence
was lacking. This review revisits the subject of the
significance of fetal movement counting in predicting
outcome and reducing stillbirth rates.
A structured search was performed to identify studies
relating to pregnancy outcome and its association with
maternal perception of fetal movements. Suspected preliminary
or redundant material was excluded. Only
publications from Western countries dating from after
1970 were included.
Twenty-four studies were identified. Available data
demonstrate that reduced fetal movements are associated
with adverse pregnancy outcome, both in high and
low risk pregnancies. Increased vigilance towards maternal
perception of movements (e.g. by performing movement
counting studies) reduces stillbirth rates, in
particular stillbirths deemed avoidable.
While screening for fetal well-being by maternal fetal
movement counting can reduce fetal mortality rates, a
resurrection in research activity is urgently needed to
optimize its benefits.
The Journal of Perinatal Medicine is a truly international forum covering the entire field of perinatal medicine. It is an essential news source for all those obstetricians, neonatologists, perinatologists and allied health professionals who wish to keep abreast of progress in perinatal and related research.