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Fetal Wellbeing and Antenatal

Radha Venkatakrishnan
Clinical Lecturer
Warwick Medical School
Antenatal Monitoring


Two thirds of fetal deaths occur before the
onset of labor.
Many antepartum deaths occur in women
at risk for uteroplacental insufficiency.
Ideal test: allows intervention before fetal
death or damage from asphyxia.
Preferable: treat disease process and allow
fetus to go to term.
Antenatal monitoring
Uteroplacental insufficiency
Inadequate delivery of nutritive or
respiratory substances to appropriate
fetal tissues.
Inadequate exchange within the placenta
due to decreased blood flow, decreased
surface area or increased membrane
Inadequate maternal delivery of nutrients
or oxygen to the placenta or to problems
of inadequate fetal uptake.
Antenatal monitoring
Theoretical scheme of fetal deterioration
Fetal well being
Fetal growth retardation (Marginal
placental respiratory function)
Fetal hypoxia with stress (Decreasing
respiratory function)
Some residual effects of intermittent
hypoxia (profound respiratory
Conditions placing the fetus at risk for UPI
Preeclampsia, chronic hypertension,
Collagen vascular disease, diabetes
mellitus, renal disease,
Fetal or maternal anemia, blood group
Hyperthyroidism, thrombophilia, cyanotic
heart disease,
Postdate pregnancy,
Fetal growth restriction
Methods for antepartum fetal assessment
Fetal movement counting
Assessment of uterine growth
Antepartum fetal heart rate testing
Biophysical profile
Doppler velocimetry
Fetal movement counting
Maternal perception of a decrease in fetal
movements / change in the pattern of fetal
movements may be a sign of impending
fetal compromise.
Cardiff count to ten : 10 movements in
12 hours.
Kick charts
No robust evidence.

Reduced fetal movements
First episode: monitoring by CTG
Persistent: USS for growth, LV & UAD,
CTG 2 to 3 times per week
Absent :
No FH: confirm by USS
FH present: growth scan and UAD

Tests for RFM
Cochrane data for CTG
Increased hospitalisation, additional
tests & elective delivery
No benefit in outcome
Interpretation errors
False reassurance
UAD has been shown to be predictive
of perinatal compromise in high risk

Symphysiofundal height
General rule: fundal height in centimeters
will equal the weeks of gestation.
Exceptions: maternal obesity, multiple
gestation, polyhydramnios, abnormal fetal
lie, oligohydramnios, low fetal station, and
fetal growth restriction.
Customized chart :Abnormalities of fundal
height should lead to further investigation.
Accuracy: poor?

Antenatal CTG
Initial observational studies showed a
strong correlation between the abnormal
CTG and poor fetal outcome
Widely used as the primary method of
antenatal fetal assessment
Poor predictive value
High inter-observer inconsistencies
Antenatal CTG
Healthy fetuses display normal oscillations
and fluctuations of the baseline FHR
(Hammacher, 1966; Kubli, 1969).
Absence of these patterns was associated
with increase in neonatal depression and
perinatal mortality.
Accelerations of the FHR during stress
testing correlated with fetal well being
(Trierweiler, 1976).

Antenatal CTG
Accelerations of the FHR occur with fetal
movement, uterine contractions, or in
response to external stimuli.
FHR accelerations appear to be a reflection
of CNS alertness and activity.
Absence of FHR accelerations seems to
depict CNS depression caused by hypoxia,
drugs, fetal sleep, or congenital anomalies.

CTG monitor
Antenatal CTG has no significant effect on
perinatal outcome or interventions such as
early elective delivery
Evidence does not support the routine use
of antenatal electronic fetal heart rate
monitoring for fetal assessment in women
with an uncomplicated pregnancy and
therefore it should not be offered

transient slowing of
FHR below the
baseline level of
more than 15 bpm
and lasting for 15 s
or more
Antenatal CTG
Perinatal mortality: 6.2/1000
False positive rate: 50%
False negative rate: 3.2 / 1000


Quick, non-invasive procedure, easy
Customised fetal growth charts (serial
Liquor volume
Placental function
Doppler study
Abnormal results correlate with increased
risk of stillbirth and neonatal morbidity in
selected pregnancies
Biophysical profile
Described by Manning (1980)
The number of biophysical activities that
could be recorded increased with real time
Fetal movement (FM)
Fetal tone (FT)
Fetal breathing movements (FB)
Amniotic fluid volume (AFV)

Variables measured
CTG: reactive as described earlier.
FBM: present - at least 1 episode of at least
30 seconds duration (within a 30 minute
FM: present - at least 3 discrete episodes.
FT: normal - at least 1 episode of extension
of extremities or spine with return to
AFV: normal largest pocket of fluid
greater than 1 cm in vertical diameter.

Biophysical profile (BPP)
Each variable
When normal: 2
When abnormal: 0
Highest Score: 10, Lowest Score: 0
Accuracy improved by increasing the
number of variables assessed.
Overall false negative rate: 0.6/1000

BPP and Perinatal morbidity
Significant inverse linear correlation
(Manning, 1990)
Fetal distress
NICU admission
5 min Apgar <7
Cord artery pH <7.20
Not enough evidence to evaluate the use of
biophysical profile as a test of fetal well-being in
high risk pregnancies except diabetes
No evidence of any benefit in screening

Errors associated with the BPP
Management decisions based on the score only.
Intervention based on a false positive low
No intervention based on a false negative
normal score
Management based on BPP without considering
overall clinical findings.
Doppler velocimetry

40% of combined ventricular output is
directed to the placenta by umbilical arteries.
Assessment of umbilical blood flow provides
information on blood perfusion of the
fetoplacental unit.
Volume of flow increases and vascular
impedance decreases with advancing Doppler
velocimetry of the umbilical arteries
gestational age.
Low vascular impedance allows a continuous
forward blood flow throughout the cardiac
Doppler study
Doppler velocimetry
An increase in the vascular resistance of
the fetoplacental unit leads to a
decrease in end diastolic flow velocity or
its absence in the flow velocity
Abnormal waveforms reflect the
presence of a structural placental lesion.
Abnormal Doppler results require
specific management protocols and
intensive fetal surveillance.
Doppler velocimetry
Uterine arteries 24/40
Doppler velocimetry
Umbilical arteries
Middle cerebral artery
Ductus venosus
Doppler study
Doppler velocimetry
A poor indicator of fetal compromise or
adaptation to the placental abnormality but
does identify patients at risk for increased
perinatal mortality.
Strong association between high systolic to
diastolic ratios and IUGR.
In summary