Old wives’ tales and inaccurate medical advice aren’t unusual when it comes to pregnancy. The problem is that some of that advice can have serious consequences.
Advocacy group Kicks Count brought attention to one of the persistent pregnancy myths that appeared on the Pampers website. In a screenshot shared to Facebook, the group noted the erroneous advice given to expectant moms who are worried that their baby isn’t kicking as often.
In a pregnancy calendar outlining what to expect during the 31st week of gestation, the website stated:
“Don’t worry, however, if your baby seems less active as the weeks progress. In fact, less frequent movement means she’s right on track (assuming you are counting 10 movements in an hour or two each day). Her movements are simply becoming less erratic and more organized; also there’s not as much room in your uterus as there was just a few weeks ago.”
As Kicks Count pointed out, the advice given by Pampers was wrong on several counts. Most importantly, a less-active baby can be a sign that something is seriously wrong and that the mom should contact her doctor immediately. As Kicks Count wrote on Facebook:
“Your baby should NOT be less active as the weeks progress. If you notice your baby’s movements slow down at this stage it MUST be reported immediately.
Less frequent movement can be a sign the baby is in distress … NOT that they are right on track.”
Moreover, the kick count numbers give a false impression of a kicking “quota” that should be met:
“Ten kicks in an hour or two in a day?! NO!!! Get to know your babies regular pattern and report any change. There is no set number you need to feel.”
Finally, Kicks Count pointed out that the “running out of room” explanation for less movement is simply untrue:
“Babies do NOT run out of room and should continue to move up to and during labor.”
The organization said that they had contacted Pampers multiple times to correct the misinformation on the website. And their complaints have had some impact.
The screenshot with the erroneous advice was sent to the group on September 24. As of September 27, both the U.S. and U.K. versions of the site had no reference to “running out of room” in utero.
Pampers’s U.K. website now reflects the advice from Kicks Count to become familiar with your baby’s pattern of movements and tell your doctor if it stops or slows down. The U.S. site refers moms to the 10-movements-an-hour benchmark:
“At roughly the same time each day (if possible, the time when your baby is most active), lie down and keep track of how long it takes to feel 10 kicks, rolls, or flutters — any type of movement. […] If an hour passes without any movement, eat a light snack, lie back down, and try again. If you still don’t feel anything, call your healthcare provider.”
According to Dr. Thomas Moore of U.C. San Diego Health, fetal movement counts can be helpful in preventing stillbirth. However, he recommends a system based on the mother’s physiology and the fact that babies are most active at night.
Moore explains that the key is to record how long it takes to feel 10 movements. He adds that the average woman reaches that number in about 11 minutes. While it may take longer, it shouldn’t go past an hour.
If an evening movement count takes longer than an hour, Moore recommends either waiting and trying again (if it’s very late or the second count takes too long as well) or going to the hospital. In a video on fetal movement counts, Moore said:
“Nine times out of ten, a baby that’s brought to labor and delivery because of abnormal fetal movement counting at night — the baby is fine. But it’s that one time out of ten when the baby reaches out — has a cord problem, has something we didn’t ever suspect could be a problem — that we can reach out and help that baby.”
Because Kicks Count works to reduce stillbirths and educate expectant mothers, they stress that any deviation from the regular pattern of fetal movement is reason to go to the hospital right away. As the organization stated on Facebook:
“You should continue to feel your baby move right up to the time you go into labor and whilst you are in labor too. Get to know your baby’s normal pattern of movements.”