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Research Article

Fetal breathing movements and other tests of fetal wellbeing: a comparative evaluation.

Br Med J 1979; 2 doi: (Published 08 September 1979) Cite this as: Br Med J 1979;2:577
  1. B J Trudinger,
  2. Y B Gordon,
  3. J G Grudzinskas,
  4. M G Hull,
  5. P J Lewis,
  6. M E Arrans


    Sixty pregnant women whose fetuses were considered to be at high risk were intensively studied with fetal and placental function tests. Fetal breathing movements were studied with real-time ultrasound and the amount of time spent breathing and the variability of the breath-to-breath interval were measured. A reduction in the amount of time the fetus spent making breathing movements and decreased variability were indicative of fetal compromise. When these results were compared with those of other tests of fetal wellbeing measurement of fetal breathing movements and ultrasound assessment of growth were more sensitive tests of fetal wellbeing than the biochemical measures (urinary oestrogen, human placental lactogen, pregnancy-specific beta-1-glycoprotein, and unconjugated oestriol concentrations) or fetal heart rate. The predictive value was highest with serum unconjugated oestriol but the results of other tests were similar. Study of fetal breathing movements or an ultrasonic assessment of growth may provide a better screening test for fetal compromise than biochemical estimations.