pregnancy

'I was 34 weeks pregnant, when my baby's movements changed. My next step saved her life.'

I lay there with the ultrasound wand across my belly watching my daughter wiggle around on the screen when suddenly the words slipped out of my mouth. “I’m so sorry for wasting your time…”

Nobody wants to be an imposition or seen a hypochondriac. I’d noticed our baby’s movements weren’t feeling as normal, they seemed to have changed. But as they were checking her heart rate on the special CTG machine and using the hospital ultrasound, there she was, wriggling away. And so, there I was; relieved, but apologising for being a bother and wasting time.

It was hospital procedure to follow up with a full growth scan the next day to be sure, and get a full picture when an expectant mum presents with decreased foetal movements. As it turns out, I wasn’t wasting anyone’s time. Things weren’t as normal on the full growth scan, and the tests together gave the doctor a much fuller picture of why I’d noticed a change in my baby’s pattern of movements.

Please, don’t ever think you are wasting a medical professional’s time.

“Thank goodness we went in.”

My smooth-sailing pregnancy had hit a speed bump just a few weeks earlier. A diagnosis of gestational diabetes at 29 weeks threw a curveball in our plan to deliver at the birth centre, catching me off guard. I’m fit and healthy and certainly hadn’t expected what would happen next.

Quickly my pregnancy care was transferred from the birth centre to the antenatal team at the local hospital. At 31 weeks an initial growth scan showed our baby girl was smaller than she should be. There was concern she might not be getting enough nutrients. Later, our doctor ordered another follow-up scan at 35 weeks to see how she was progressing.

So it would be three long weeks until the next scan. Wait. Wait. Wait.

And while we waited for the next scan, I was to monitor our baby girls’ pattern of movement each day. I knew her little rhythms and when she was at her most active period of the day. Every night after dinner, and again before I got up in the morning, was when she liked to tap dance on my insides.

Baby movements, I was quickly learning, are essential to be aware of. Even before you become pregnant everyone knows about reducing your child’s risk of SIDS through safe baby sleeping, or what foods can be harmful in pregnancy. But the importance of baby movements to keeping your child safe? It’s not mentioned until halfway through your pregnancy, and sometimes just in passing.

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As we counted down the days until the next scan I started to become concerned something wasn’t quite right. I stressed all night, and throughout the next day at work, that her movements weren’t the same as normal.

My mind was racing with questions about “should we wait for the next scan?” and “should I go to the hospital?” Ultimately our decision to go in was one of the best we’ve made.

My instincts and understanding of her movements had been right. The sonographer whose time I thought I was wasting, measured our little girl and found she hadn’t developed as she should have since the last scan. To give her the best chance, she was going to be born this week, at just 34 weeks.

The next few days are a blur of steroid injections to boost her lung development, insulin to manage gestational diabetes, more scans and thinking about all the thing we hadn’t yet got done at home to prepare for her arrival.

What I remember most about those days was that overwhelming feeling of “thank goodness we went in”. My partner and I shudder to think about what the outcome might have been if we had waited until the next scheduled scan.

Thursday morning, I was wheeled into the operating theatre for a C-section. It was a far cry from the experience I had imagined at the birthing centre, but one that would deliver our little girl safely into the world. At 12:18 pm she made her grand entrance and the wail of her first cry was amazing to hear.

Our little girl was here six weeks earlier than planned, but alive and well. Every day she’s getting stronger, and we’re hoping she’ll be home with us in just a week or two.

I’m a nurse working in fertility helping women become pregnant every day. But those women transfer from our care to midwives after a successful conception and I realise now that even I didn’t have the right information about baby movements and their importance.

Knowing my baby’s pattern of movements helped save her life. More than 60 per cent of women think that it’s normal for a baby to slow down, or run out of room to move towards the end of pregnancy. It’s a dangerous myth, and one we need to end.

Your baby’s Movements Matter and everyone needs to know.

Nikki has shared her story as part of a campaign to raise awareness about the importance of reduced fetal movements. You can learn more about the #MovementsMatter campaign at www.movementsmatter.org.au

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