As we come to the end of Baby Loss Awareness Week (9th – 15th October) a time when 60 charities and groups work together to raise awareness of key issues that affect people who have lost a baby, I thought it would be appropriate to reiterate the importance of knowing how your baby moves. How monitoring the usual pattern of your baby’s movements is important in preventing a possible baby loss.
Although there is no one answer to what contributes to losing a baby, there is a great deal of research being carried out into the possible ways to prevent or at least reduce the incidents of a baby loss.
As you are probably aware by now, reading all the literature and discussing your baby’s movements with your midwife, you can usually feel movements at around 20 weeks of pregnancy or before if you have had previous pregnancies. A baby is considered viable (that is capable of life outside the womb) from about 24 weeks completed pregnancy.
You will find that your midwife will give you a leaflet explaining how to keep an eye on your baby’s movements when you are 24 weeks pregnant or before in some NHS trusts. You can also access this information at Your baby’s movements
At every contact with your midwife or doctor, they will ask you if you are feeling the baby move and if it’s following its usual pattern of movement. Some of you may find this a strange question initially but observing and feeling your baby move is a good indication of how healthy and well the baby is in the womb. If a baby becomes unwell in the womb due to some infection or reduction in the function of the placenta, the first sign is a reduction, a change in baby’s movements or no baby movements at all.
You will get to know the pattern of your baby’s movements from about 26-28 weeks of pregnancy. Midwives and Obstetricians will ask you never to ignore any change or reduction in the baby’s movements and to contact your local hospital as soon as note any difference.
It is also not recommended that you buy a device called a Doppler for listening to the baby’s heartbeat yourself – you may be listening to your own heartbeat and be falsely reassured. Please do not also listen to ‘old wives’ tales about what a reduction in the baby’s movement’s means. Some women have told me many times that their well-meaning relatives have told them that a reduction in the baby’s movement’s means that labour is imminent, or that the baby has changed position for example. None of these or similar stories are true and a healthy baby will move vigorously even when you are in labour.
The midwives do not mind how many times you telephone in for advice about your baby’s movements or how many times you go into the maternity unit for a monitoring of the baby’s heartbeat.
This is when you can take a proactive approach to ensuring that your baby is born well and healthy by listening to your body and instincts and observing your baby’s movements.
Rosemary A Harris.