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

Our researchers found no link between a baby moving more than normal for a period of time and worse pregnancy outcomes, despite previous studies suggesting these babies could be at risk of stillbirth.
  • Author's list

    Professor Alexander Heazell, Imogen Sharp, Dr Temidayo Adeyeye, Linda Peacock, Kym Farrant, Dr Susan Greenwood (Scientist)

    Start date: September 2017
    End date: August 2020

  • Research centre

  • Research status

    Completed projects

Why do we need this research?

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.

Recent studies have shown that a single period of significantly increased movement may also be linked to stillbirth. However, these studies only included women whose pregnancies ended in stillbirth. This means we need to find out more about pregnancy outcomes in women who experience increased movements, to find out if these women really are at higher risk of stillbirth.

What happened in this project?

Tommy’s researchers carried out the INVEST study, which included 64 women who came to hospital with concerns that their baby was moving more than usual. The researchers recorded information about the mothers and also tested the baby’s wellbeing. They took a blood sample from the mother when she came to hospital and after the baby was born, and looked for abnormalities in the placenta and umbilical cord after birth.

None of the women participating in this study had a stillbirth, and only one in ten had a poor outcome, such as having a small baby, a baby that needed special care after birth, or a baby that had signs of stress at birth. Only four babies had an unusual heart rate trace when their mother came into hospital, and five had an unusual ultrasound scan. All women had normal placentas and umbilical cords, and there were no signs of infection or that the placenta was not working properly during pregnancy.

What difference will this project make?

This study did not find a link between a perceived increase in a baby’s movements and poor pregnancy outcomes, and so more studies are needed to understand the previous results. For now, women can be reassured that increased periods of movement do not appear to be linked to worse outcomes for the baby.