Decreased fetal movements: background, assessment, and clinical management


*Anette G. Olesen
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology
Glostrup University Hospital
2600 Glostrup, Denmark


A reduction or cessation of fetal movements (FMs) is frequently reported by pregnant women and causes concern and anxiety. However, the clinical significance of a history of reduced FMs remains unclear, and the assessment and management of these pregnancies is controversial. This article is a review of the literature on decreased FMs found in medline and the cochrane library using the search phrases: decreased FMs, perinatal outcome, FM monitoring, and fetal assessment. Formal counting of FMs by the pregnant woman could possibly identify the fetuses, which are at risk of compromise, thus allowing for appropriate action. However, the benefit of this intervention has not been definitely proven. Cardiotocography, umbilical/uterine artery Doppler velocimetry, and ultrasonography have been used for antepartum fetal assessment in pregnancies with decreased FMs, but the evidence of a clinical benefit is limited. The effects of fetal assessment with vibroacoustic stimulation and biophysical profile are unknown and should be further evaluated. Present recommendations on the management of pregnancies with decreased FMs are based on limited and inconsistent scientific evidence. There is a need for further well-designed studies in order to provide evidence-based guidelines in the future.