I'm worried about my baby's movements - what happens next?
Realising you haven’t felt your baby move for a while is scary. Even scarier if you’re not sure when you last felt any movements. The advice from midwives used to be to count the number of kicks you felt in a certain amount of time, whereas now the advice is to recognise if your baby’s unique pattern of movements has changed, and to get medical advice if this is the case. And even though in the vast majority of cases it’s simply that baby is asleep, or having a slow day, or has moved into a position where you can’t feel the movements as much, it’s still scary. Shit scary.
So what actually happens when you call triage and say ‘my baby isn’t moving’?
Firstly, please be reassured that the maternity unit staff will NEVER think you are wasting time, and will ALWAYS rather you get things checked out than sit and worry at home. It’s really important to call, and go, as soon as you can.
When you call triage, or your maternity unit (your midwife should have given you advice on who to call, when, or it will be in your notes somewhere), your call will be answered by the receptionist, who will ask for some key details like your name, hospital number, how far along you are etc. They will then tell you to come in and bring your notes with you.
When you arrive, the receptionist will check your details again, and may print out a record sheet and wrist band for you to hand to the staff you see in triage. They’ll direct you where to go next.
In triage, you’ll probably be asked to give a urine sample, and have your blood pressure checked, before being shown a cubicle where you will wait and be monitored. The cubicle is usually in a room with several other cubicles curtained off, so you may well be in there with other pregnant women and birthing people who are at various stages of pregnancy or labour.
Once in your cubicle a midwife will come in, and ask you some questions about why you’ve come in. It’s ok to be unsure of when you last felt movements, and it’s ok if your baby has started wriggling as soon as you walked in the triage door - the staff won’t mind and they’ll still check everything is ok.
Next the midwife will usually measure and feel your bump to see where baby is. All this will be recorded on your notes. They will then see if they can find baby’s heartbeat, usually with a handheld Doppler or one of the monitors they strap to your bump. Once they know where the best place to find the heartbeat is they will attach the monitor to you using a stretchy strap that just clips into place. They will then attach another monitor and strap, which measures any contractions you may be having. You may also be given a button to press whenever you do feel a movement from baby. These monitors are hooked up to a machine that records baby’s heartbeat, as well as contractions, and prints them out onto a strip of paper. The midwife will let you know how long they want to monitor you for - usually 15-30 minutes depending on how things are going.
If all is well and they can easily find baby’s heartbeat and it is behaving the way they would expect (i.e. if you are not having contractions it is fairly steady with some fluctuations, or if you ARE having contractions then dipping before coming back up) then they will advise you on next steps. If you’re not in labour then you’ll have to wait for them to add the info to your notes and then you can head home. If you ARE in labour they’ll talk to you about what further checks they might want to do and what happens next.
If baby’s heartbeat is hard to find or not behaving as they would expect the midwife will discuss this with you and call in a colleague for a second opinion. They may ask you to lie in different positions, and maybe have a drink and something to eat. You’ll probably be moved to your own room and a consultant will come to see you to discuss the next steps if baby still isn’t responding.
Again, in most cases, there isn’t anything to worry about, but it can feel like one of the longest and most stressful times of your life! If you have any questions at all, or you’re not happy with the response you’ve had, please do talk to the midwife about it rather than going home worrying. And if you do get home and feel things have changed again, don’t hesitate to call up and go back in. You are the only person who can feel what your baby is doing, and your instincts are invaluable.