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Foetal kick charts are 'inaccurate'

16th October 2009

Irish researchers have questioned the value of foetal kick charts used to determine if a pregnancy is progressing well.

Baby Ward

The team from Cork University College Maternity Hospital says that the charts are inaccurate and should be discontinued.

While about 5% of doctors in the UK use them, they are more common in the Republic of Ireland and the US.

Instead of using the charts, which rely on the mother's perceptions and may lead to miscounts of a baby's movements, the Cork team recommend checking the foetal heart rate instead.

Pregnant women generally feel the baby move from 20 weeks and usually on a daily basis until birth but any reduction in movement often causes anxiety for the expectant mum and the GP with decreased movements for more than 24 hours a sign that the baby may be unwell.

Lead researcher Dr Julia Unterscheider said foetal kick charts did not compare well to more modern methods such as measuring the foetal heart rate with a cardiotocograph (CTG) and ultrasound.

She said: “We suggest that a careful history and examination together with a CTG are used to confirm foetal wellbeing.

“Ultrasound evaluation is recommended when babies are at and beyond their due date, or when examination of the mother's abdomen suggest that the baby is small.”

The research was published in the journal The Obstetrician and Gynaecologist and followed an anonymous online questionnaire of 100 Irish obstetricians.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists welcomed the study and said it was important to monitor babies’ movements.

 

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