Spontaneous motor activity in normal fetuses

Early Hum Dev. 2001 Dec;65(2):139-47. doi: 10.1016/s0378-3782(01)00224-9.


Aim: The aim of this work was to perform a quantitative analysis of the different activities (mouth, eye and gross body movements) in the fetuses of 15 women with normally evolving pregnancies, and also to show the existence of intrauterine neurological maturation.

Methods: At 28, 34 and 38 weeks of gestation, 15 fetuses underwent a 60-min ultrasound observation. The data from the activities observed allowed the calculation, for each patient and each type of activity, of incidence, duration and intervals; relation between these and of each fetal activity for each gestational period; and the correlation between the different findings.

Results: The analysis of the data showed only a significant decrease in the incidence of gross body movements and a significant increase in the incidence of mouthing movements between 28 and 38 weeks of gestation. A correlation analysis failed to show any significant correlation between the various activities at 28 weeks, but found a positive correlation between eye, gross body movements and "other mouth movements," and a negative correlation between mouthing activity and the other activities examined at 34 and 38 weeks of gestation.

Conclusion: The authors conclude that there is a trend of fetal activities, which is an expression of fetal neurological maturation.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Embryonic and Fetal Development*
  • Eye Movements / physiology
  • Female
  • Fetal Movement / physiology*
  • Fetus / physiology*
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Mouth / physiology
  • Nervous System / embryology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Ultrasonography, Prenatal