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The effects of lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic on fetal movement profiles

Reissland, N.; Ustun, B.; Einbeck, J.

The effects of lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic on fetal movement profiles Thumbnail


Beyza Ustun
PGR Student Doctor of Philosophy


Purpose: The current study investigated the direct impact of the COVID-19 lockdown on fetal movements, addressing a critical research gap. While previous research has predominantly examined the effects of lockdown on maternal health and postnatal outcomes, little attention has been paid to the direct consequences on fetal well-being as indicated by their movement profile. Methods: We conducted analysis of movement profiles in 20 healthy fetuses during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown (third national UK lockdown period between January and March 2021) and compared them with 20 healthy fetuses from pre-covid pregnancies, all at 32 weeks gestation. We controlled for maternal stress, depression, and anxiety. Results: Pregnant mothers during pre-covid compared with those during the COVID-19 lockdown reported similar levels of stress (p = 0.47), depression (p = 0.15), and anxiety (p = 0.07). Their fetuses, however, differed in their movement profiles with mouth movement frequencies significantly higher during COVID-19 lockdown (COVID-19 lockdown: mean of 5.909) compared to pre-Covid pregnancies (mean of 3.308; p = 0.029). Furthermore, controlling for maternal anxiety a regression analysis indicated that frequency of fetal mouth movements (p = 0.017), upper face movements (p = 0.008), and touch movements (p = 0.031) were all significantly higher in fetuses observed during lockdown compared to fetuses before the Covid period. Conclusion: Fetuses show an effect of lockdown independent of maternal anxiety, stress, or depression. These findings contribute to our understanding of fetal development during extraordinary circumstances, raising questions about the potential effects of having to stay indoors during lockdowns.


Reissland, N., Ustun, B., & Einbeck, J. (2024). The effects of lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic on fetal movement profiles. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, 24(1), 56.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 4, 2024
Online Publication Date Jan 11, 2024
Publication Date Jan 11, 2024
Deposit Date Jan 5, 2024
Publicly Available Date Jan 18, 2024
Journal BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth
Publisher BioMed Central
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 24
Issue 1
Pages 56
Keywords Pregnancy, COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, Fetal movement profile, Mental health, Natural light exposure
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