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Reduction of late stillbirth with the introduction of fetal movement information and guidelines – a clinical quality improvement

Julie Victoria Holm Tveit12*, Eli Saastad23, Babill Stray-Pedersen1, Per E Børdahl45, Vicki Flenady6, Ruth Fretts7 and J Frederik Frøen27*

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Centre for Perinatal Research, Rikshospitalet University Hospital, University of Oslo, Medical Faculty, Norway

2 Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Division of Epidemiology, Oslo, Norway

3 Akershus University College, and University of Oslo, Medical faculty, Norway

4 Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Haukeland University Hospital, Bergen, Norway

5 Institute for Clinical Medicine, Section for Gynaecology and Obstetrics, University of Bergen, Norway

6 Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Queensland, Mater Mothers' Hospital, South Brisbane, Australia

7 Brigham and Women's Hospital, Div. of Maternal-Fetal Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA

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BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 2009, 9:32  doi:10.1186/1471-2393-9-32

Published: 22 July 2009



Women experiencing decreased fetal movements (DFM) are at increased risk of adverse outcomes, including stillbirth. Fourteen delivery units in Norway registered all cases of DFM in a population-based quality assessment. We found that information to women and management of DFM varied significantly between hospitals. We intended to examine two cohorts of women with DFM before and during two consensus-based interventions aiming to improve care through: 1) written information to women about fetal activity and DFM, including an invitation to monitor fetal movements, 2) guidelines for management of DFM for health-care professionals.


All singleton third trimester pregnancies presenting with a perception of DFM were registered, and outcomes collected independently at all 14 hospitals. The quality assessment period included April 2005 through October 2005, and the two interventions were implemented from November 2005 through March 2007. The baseline versus intervention cohorts included: 19,407 versus 46,143 births and 1215 versus 3038 women with DFM, respectively.


Reports of DFM did not increase during the intervention. The stillbirth rate among women with DFM fell during the intervention: 4.2% vs. 2.4%, (OR 0.51 95% CI 0.32–0.81), and 3.0/1000 versus 2.0/1000 in the overall study population (OR 0.67 95% CI 0.48–0.93). There was no increase in the rates of preterm births, fetal growth restriction, transfers to neonatal care or severe neonatal depression among women with DFM during the intervention. The use of ultrasound in management increased, while additional follow up visits and admissions for induction were reduced.


Improved management of DFM and uniform information to women is associated with fewer stillbirths.