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Petition Review NHS treatment of pregnant women experiencing reduced fetal movements

I want the Government to review how NHS clinicians respond when pregnant women report reduced fetal movement, and in particular the scans that are offered to assess the health of the baby.

More details

I suffered a still birth and I had gone to the triage on three separate occasions with reduced fetal movements, I was examined with a Doppler that showed tachycardia then put on a CTG machine.

Currently only 1% of fetal tachycardia is sustained therefore a Doppler or up to 60 minutes on a CTG machine can miss these intermittent tachycardic episodes, whereas a full scan could see any abnormalities.

A review should look at whether current practice is fit for purpose, or should be reformed.

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Government responded

This response was given on 21 October 2021

Clinicians should be working to NHS guidelines on fetal monitoring. The guidelines are regularly reviewed and updated in line with latest findings and evidence.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) published antenatal care guidelines on 19 August 2021, including recommendations on monitoring fetal growth and wellbeing. These guidelines are aimed at clinicians working on the front line and are being implemented across maternity services in England. Under the guidance, clinicians should discuss the topic of the baby’s movements with the woman after 24 weeks and assess the woman and baby if there are any concerns. The woman should be advised to contact maternity services at any time if she has concerns about her baby’s movements or notices reduced fetal movement (RFM) after 24 weeks.

The Government is committed to patient safety and eradicating avoidable harms. Every baby loss is a tragedy and we are continuously working to make the NHS one of the safest places in the world to have a baby by offering mothers and babies better support and safer care.


The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists published updated guidelines on “Reduced Fetal Movement” in February 2017. The guidelines provide advice based on the available evidence, to guide clinicians to provide the best most appropriate care to women presenting with reduced fetal movement during pregnancy.

According to the guidelines, when a woman reports reduced fetal movement, the priority is to confirm fetal viability. A handheld Doppler device will usually be used to confirm the presence of the fetal heartbeat.

This should be available in the majority of community settings in which a pregnant woman would be seen by a midwife or a general practitioner. The duration of recording is restricted to 20–30 minutes with the mother in a semi-recumbent position. There are no studies which have evaluated the use of longer periods of fetal movement counting by Doppler ultrasound or whether this method can detect fetuses at risk of stillbirth.

After fetal viability has been confirmed, if the pregnancy is over 28+0 weeks of gestation, the woman should undergo cardiotocography (CTG) monitoring of the fetal heart rate initially for at least 20 minutes, to detect fetal compromise. An ultrasound scan assessment should be undertaken as part of the preliminary investigations of a woman presenting with RFM after 28+0 weeks of gestation if the perception of RFM persists despite a normal CTG or if there are any additional risk factors for fetal grown restriction and stillbirth.

The Royal College of Midwives and Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists have developed a consensus statement on “Electronic Fetal Monitoring (EFM)”. This is a part of the toolkit used by midwives and obstetricians working together during a woman’s pregnancy and labour to monitor the fetal heart rate and check signs of compromise.

The Saving Babies Lives care bundle was introduced in 2016 to tackle stillbirths and early neonatal deaths. The bundle comprises of four key elements which include reducing smoking in pregnancy; risk assessment and surveillance for fetal growth restriction; raising awareness of reduced fetal movement; and effective fetal monitoring during labour.

The four key elements are being implemented in all NHS maternity services. An independent evaluation of the Saving Babies Lives Care Bundle showed that stillbirths fell by 20% at the maternity units where implementation of the Care Bundle was evaluated. Version two of the Saving Babies’ Lives Care Bundle (SBLCBv2) was launched in March 2019, to build on version one and to address the issues identified in the evaluation.

The care bundle sets out that an ultrasound scan for fetal growth, liquor volume and umbilical artery Doppler needs only to be offered on first presentation of RFM if there is no computerised CTG or if there is another indication for scan (e.g. the baby is ‘Small for Gestational Age’ on clinical assessment). Ultrasound scan for fetal growth, liquor volume and umbilical artery Doppler should be offered to women presenting with recurrent RFM after 28+0 weeks’ gestation.

The Government will continue to work to develop policy and support initiatives to reduce stillbirths and provide better support and safer care for mothers and their babies.

Department of Health and Social Care

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Other parliamentary business

The Health and Social Care Committee's report on the safety of maternity services in England

On Monday 5 July the Health and Social Care Committee published a report that looked at safety of maternity services in England.

The report found that improvements in maternity services have been too slow, and recommended urgent action to address staffing shortfalls in maternity services. It also notes that whilst England remains a largely safe place to give birth, there has been little progress in addressing inequalities for mothers and babies, with those from minority ethnic and socio-economically deprived backgrounds at greater risk.

Read the full report:

Among its recommendations, the Committee said that the Government should:

  • Introduce a target to end disparities in maternal and neonatal outcomes
  • Immediately increase the annual budget for maternity services by at least £200-350 million
  • Reform litigation to award compensation for maternity cases based on whether an incident was avoidable
  • Take urgent action to address staffing shortfalls in maternity services

The Committee also published an evaluation of the Government’s progress against its policy commitments in the area of maternity services in England, which was produced by an Expert Panel appointed by the Committee.

Read the Expert Panel's evaluation here:

Government responds to report and the Expert Panel Evaluation

Last month the Government responded to this report and also to the evaluation by the expert panel

The Government's response welcomes the Committee's report, states that maternity safety is a priority for this Government, and that it remains committed to making the NHS one of the best places in the world to have a baby.

Read the Government's response to the Committee's report here:

Read the Government's response to the Expert Panel evaluation here:

What is the Health and Social Care Committee?

The Health and Social Care Committee scrutinises the work of the Department of Health and Social Care and its associated public bodies. It examines government policy, spending and administration on behalf of the electorate and the House of Commons. It's a cross-party committee and is independent of the Government.

Find out more on their website:

You can get updates on their work by following the Committee on Twitter:

This is a ‘select committee’. Find out how Select Committees work:

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