A kick from within--fetal movement counting and the cancelled progress in antenatal care

J Perinat Med. 2004;32(1):13-24. doi: 10.1515/JPM.2004.003.


Interest for maternal fetal movement counting as a method of screening for fetal well-being boomed during the 1970's and 1980's. 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.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Fetal Death / prevention & control
  • Fetal Movement*
  • Fetus / physiology*
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, Ancient
  • Humans
  • Mothers
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Outcome*
  • Pregnancy, High-Risk
  • Prenatal Care / history