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Midwives' and obstetricians' practice, perspectives and experiences in relation to altered fetal movement.pdf (373.94 kB)

Midwives' and obstetricians' practice, perspectives and experiences in relation to altered fetal movement: A focused ethnographic study

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posted on 2023-12-20, 11:47 authored by Julia A Clark, Lucy K Smith, Natalie Armstrong

 

Background

Reducing avoidable stillbirth is a global priority. The stillbirth rate in England compares unfavourably to that of some other high-income countries. Poorly-managed episodes of altered fetal movement have been highlighted as a key contributor to avoidable stillbirth, and strategies introduced in England in 2016 to reduce perinatal mortality included recommendations for the management of reduced fetal movement. Despite a downward trend in stillbirth rates across the UK, the effects of policies promoting awareness of fetal movement remain uncertain.

Objective

To provide in-depth knowledge of how practice and clinical guidance relating to altered fetal movement are perceived, enacted and experienced by midwives and obstetricians, and explore the relationship between recommended fetal movement care and actual fetal movement care.

Design

A focused ethnographic approach comprising over 180 h of observation, 15 interviews, and document analysis was used to explore practice at two contrasting UK maternity units.

Settings

Antenatal services at two UK maternity units, one in the Midlands and one in the North of England.

Participants

Thirty-six midwives, obstetricians and sonographers and 40 pregnant women participated in the study across 52 observed care episodes and relevant unit activity. Twelve midwives and three obstetricians additionally participated in formal semi-structured interviews.

Methods

Fieldnotes, interview transcripts, policy documents, maternity notes and clinical guidelines were analysed using a modified constant comparison method to identify important themes.

Results

fetal movement practice was mostly consistent and in line with guideline recommendations. Notwithstanding, most midwives and obstetricians had concerns about this area of care, including challenges in diagnosis, conflicting evidence about activity, heightened maternal anxiety, and high rates of monitoring and intervention in otherwise low-risk pregnancies. To address these issues, midwives spent considerable time reassuring women through information and regular monitoring, and coaching them to perceive fetal movement more accurately.

Conclusions

Practice relating to altered fetal movement might be more uniform than in the past. However, a heightened focus on fetal movement is associated by some midwives and obstetricians with potential harms, including increased anxiety in pregnancy, and high rates of monitoring and intervention in pregnancies where there are no ‘objective concerns’. Challenges in diagnosing a significant change in fetal movement with accuracy might mean that interventions and resources are not being directed towards those pregnancies most at risk. More research is needed to determine how healthcare professionals can engage in conversations about fetal movement and stillbirth to support safe outcomes and positive experiences in pregnancy and birth.

Funding

This research was undertaken as part of a PhD studentship funded by the University of Leicester, with additional funding from the Health Foundation.

History

Author affiliation

Department of Population Health Sciences, University of Leicester

Version

  • VoR (Version of Record)

Published in

International Journal of Nursing Studies

Volume

150

Pagination

104643

Publisher

Elsevier

issn

0020-7489

Copyright date

2023

Available date

2023-12-20

Language

en

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