The INVEST study: can increased fetal movement be a sign that something is wrong?

Our researchers want to find out if babies who move more than normal for a period of time could be at risk of stillbirth, and whether this might be linked to problems with the placenta.

This study is now complete. 

Start: September 2017

End: August 2019

Pregnant women are encouraged to get to know their baby’s normal pattern of movements to make sure that they notice when their baby may be struggling. When a baby is unwell, they may conserve energy by slowing down their movements – this is often the first sign that a baby is at risk of stillbirth.

However, three recent studies have shown that a single period of significantly increased movement may also be linked to stillbirth. At the moment, we don’t understand why this happens.

To find out more, we are conducting the INVEST study in Manchester and Liverpool. So far, 60 women who contacted their maternity unit because they thought their baby was moving more than normal have agreed to take part. We are collecting information from these women to see if there is any link between a period of increased movement during pregnancy and poor outcomes for the baby. We are also looking at whether there was any problem with how the placenta was working during pregnancy, or if were any other signs that the baby was struggling.

No link found between increased fetal movement and stillbirth

We have now analysed data from 10 women who experienced increased movements and 10 women who had normal pregnancies. We did not see a link between increased movements and poor pregnancy outcomes, including stillbirth. We did notice that the placentas of the women with increased movements were smaller, although there were no structural differences between the placentas from the two sets of women. There was also no sign that the babies who had a period of exaggerated movement had been starved of oxygen or suffered an infection.

We will next look at the information we have collected from all the women who took part in our study, to see if we get the same results when we look at a larger group of women. We believe that this will help us to understand whether increased movements during pregnancy are really associated with poor outcomes for the baby, and whether this can be related to problems with the placenta and the umbilical cord.

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    Please note that these comments are monitored but not answered by Tommy’s. Please call your GP or maternity unit if you have concerns about your health or your baby’s health.
    • By GW (not verified) on 20 Feb 2020 - 17:15

      Hello. Out of my experience nurses and Doctors are still lacking a lot of training and understanding of women's body's and pregnancies. They don't listen and even women in the field of maternal health swear each pregnancy and body is the same. In my experience increased fetal movements are just as important as a mother i lacked to realize this and go to the emergency room the baby moved non stop completely for two days. I was full term. When i got to the Doctors appointment two weeks before my expected date they found no fetal heartbeat so there was then a follow up ultrasound where it showed no fetal movement or heartbeat. We didn't know what to expect. After induction we found the cord wrapped tightly around Baby's leg. My fault because i noticed that baby was way more active and i didn't call or go to the er knowing something seemed wrong. It needs to be talked about more. Maybe this happened to help other women be more aware.

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