As a diabetic, Chicagoan Jennifer Slota was told by her doctor to count the kicks her baby made beginning at week 28 of her pregnancy. While most doctors agree that expecting moms with high-risk pregnancies like Slota should conduct daily kick counts to monitor the health of their babies, the debate remains on the need for others to do the same.
"For healthy babies kick counts can be inconsistent. Moms may count things like the uterus tightening as movement versus an actual kick," says Dr. Elias R. Sabbagha, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. "I tell my patients to be aware of movement. If the baby moved a lot yesterday but isn’t moving much today, I want to know about it."
Dr. Diep Nguyen, founder of the BabyKick Foundation and www.babykickalliance.org, is out to convince doctors like Sabbagha that every mom should be told to do kick counts.
"Stillbirth claims the lives of 70 babies per day in the U.S., yet we’ve found that only 50 percent of moms were told to do kick counting by their doctors," Nguyen says. "Kick counting is a simple way for expecting moms to find changes in fetal movement patterns and help reduce the risk of stillbirth."
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends expecting moms choose a time of day when their baby is most active, usually after a meal, and write down how long it takes it to make 10 movements. The organization urges moms to follow their doctors’ instructions on how often to do kick counts and when to alert them about a potential problem. However, it has yet to find consistent evidence that kick counting will reduce the number of stillbirths.
While Nguyen notes that more studies are needed on kick counting, she stresses that it’s an important way to avoid a delay in intervention.