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Prenatal effects of maternal nutritional stress and mental health on the fetal movement profile

Reissland, N.; Millard, A.; Wood, R.; Ustun, B.; McFaul, C.; Froggatt, S.; Einbeck, J.

Prenatal effects of maternal nutritional stress and mental health on the fetal movement profile Thumbnail


R. Wood

Beyza Ustun
PGR Student Doctor of Philosophy

C. McFaul


Purpose: Prenatal sub-optimal nutrition and exposure to maternal stress, anxiety and depression in pregnancy have been linked to increased postnatal morbidity and mortality. Fetal growth is most vulnerable to maternal dietary deficiencies, such as those evident in hyperemesis gravidarum (HG), early in pregnancy. The purpose of this pilot study was to examine the effects of HG on fetal movement profiles as a measure of fetal healthy development in the 3rd trimester of pregnancy, and to assess whether nutritional stress on the mother can be evaluated using isotopic analysis of hair. Method: We analyzed fetal movement profiles using 4D ultrasound scans at 32- and 36-weeks' gestation. Fetuses of women (N = 6) diagnosed with HG, having lost more than 10% of their body weight in the first trimester of pregnancy were compared to a healthy group (N = 6), controlling for stress, depression and anxiety. We tested carbon and nitrogen isotope ratios in maternal hair as a measure of both diet and nutritional changes due to catabolism of body proteins and fats. Results: HG and catabolism were significantly correlated (p = 0.02). Furthermore, at 32-weeks' gestation movement profiles of fetuses of mothers with HG differed significantly from the movement profiles of fetuses of healthy mothers. Fetuses of mothers suffering from HG showed a significantly increased ratio of fine-grained movements at 32 weeks (p = 0.008); however, there were no significant differences detectable at 36-weeks' gestation. Conclusion: The effect of HG on fetal development as expressed by variations in fetal movement profiles in this pilot study suggest that prenatal effects of HG can be measured using movement profiles. Isotope analysis of hair can supplement this with information on nutritional imbalances early in pregnancy.


Reissland, N., Millard, A., Wood, R., Ustun, B., McFaul, C., Froggatt, S., & Einbeck, J. (2020). Prenatal effects of maternal nutritional stress and mental health on the fetal movement profile. Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics, 302(1), 65-75.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 25, 2020
Online Publication Date May 14, 2020
Publication Date Jul 1, 2020
Deposit Date Apr 26, 2020
Publicly Available Date May 27, 2020
Journal Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics
Print ISSN 0932-0067
Publisher Springer
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 302
Issue 1
Pages 65-75


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