• fetal movement;
  • fetal movement counting;
  • maternal-fetal attachment;
  • Prenatal Attachment Inventory

Abstract:  Background:  Women presenting with decreased fetal movement have an increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes. Fetal movement counting may be associated with improvement in maternal-fetal attachment, which in turn, improves pregnancy outcome and postnatal mother–infant attachment. The study aim was to test whether maternal-fetal attachment differed between groups of mothers who systematically performed fetal movement counting and mothers who followed standard antenatal care where routine fetal movement counting was discouraged.

Methods:  In a multicenter, randomized trial, 1,123 women were assigned to either systematic fetal movement counting from pregnancy week 28 or to standard antenatal care. This study sample included primarily white, cohabiting, nonsmoking, and relatively well-educated women. The outcome measure was maternal-fetal attachment, measured by using the Prenatal Attachment Inventory. Analysis was by intention-to-treat.

Results:  No difference was found between the groups in the scores on prenatal attachment; the means and standard deviations were 59.54 (9.39) and 59.43 (9.35) for the intervention and the control groups, respectively (p = 0.747). The mean difference between the groups was 0.20 (95% CI: 1.02–1.42).

Conclusions:  Fetal movement counting in the third trimester does not stimulate antenatal maternal-fetal attachment. This result differs from a previous study where fetal movement counting improved maternal-fetal attachment. Further research with a focus on possible mediating factors such as levels of stress, concern, and other psychological factors is required. (BIRTH 38:4 December 2011)