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Foetus kick charts 'unreliable'

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Counting the number of times a baby has kicked should not be relied upon to check a foetus’ wellbeing, research has suggested.

A study by a team at Cork University College Maternity Hospital said a combination of assessing the mother’s risk factors and scanning the foetus should be used instead.

Using a kick chart, where a mother determines how well her baby is doing by counting the number of kicks, is unreliable, the study says, although it remains in use in a number of countries.

Rules as to how many kicks constitute a healthy baby are vague, the Irish research found, and the woman may not be able to count them accurately.

However, if the mother says her baby has reduced or no movement it can be an indicator of problems, the team said.

Dr Julia Unterscheider from the University of Cork said: “We suggest that a careful history and examination together with a CTG (cardiotocograph) are used to confirm foetal wellbeing at a given time.

“Ultrasound evaluation is recommended when babies are at and beyond their due date, or when examination of the mother’s abdomen suggests that the baby is small.

“Kick charts, which are in use in many maternity units worldwide, are of no benefit to reducing poor outcomes in low-risk pregnant women. A mother’s subjective perception of diminished movements is a better predictor of problems.”

The research appeared in The Obstetrician and Gynaecologist.

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