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

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


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.

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Publisher statement:This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit
Date accepted:25 April 2020
Date deposited:26 April 2020
Date of first online publication:14 May 2020
Date first made open access:27 May 2020

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