BACKGROUND: Decreased fetal movement often precedes a stillbirth. The objective of this study was to describe women's experiences of fetal movement before the confirmation of fetal death.
METHODS: Data were collected through a Web-based questionnaire. Women with stillbirths after 28 gestational weeks were self-recruited. Content analysis was used to analyze the answers to one open question. The statements from mothers of a stillborn, born during gestational weeks 28 to 36 were compared with those of a stillborn at term.
RESULTS: The women's 215 answers were divided into three categories: decreased, weak, and no fetal movement at all; 154 (72%) of the descriptions were divided into three subcategories: decreased and weak movement (106; 49%), no movement at all (35; 16%), and contraction interpreted as movement (13; 6%). The category fetal movement as normal includes 39 (18%) of the descriptions. The third category, extremely vigorous fetal activity followed by no movement at all, includes 22 (10%) of the descriptions. Eight (15%) of the women with stillbirths in gestational weeks 28 to 36 interpreted contractions as fetal movement as compared to 5 (5%) of the women with stillbirths at term.
DISCUSSION: Uterine contractions can be interpreted as fetal movement. A single episode of extremely vigorous fetal activity can precede fetal death. The majority of the women experienced decreased, weaker, or no fetal movement at all 2 days before fetal death was diagnosed. Mothers should be educated to promptly report changes in fetal movement to their health care providers. Using fetal movement information to evaluate possible fetal distress may lead to reductions in stillbirths.
2015. Vol. 42, no 2, 189-194 p.