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Pregnant, shaken abdomen to encourage baby to move. Could abdominal trauma result in cerebral palsy?

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Practicing since : 1999
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Could abdominal trauma during prenancy result in the child being born with cerebral palsy? I am 27 weeks pregnant and recently had someone grab my abdomen with his hands and shake it, to try to encourage the baby to move. I am worried that the shaking may have disrupted the placenta, causing a disruption of blood flow to the developing baby.
Posted Wed, 31 Jul 2013 in Pregnancy
Answered by Dr. Timothy Raichle 7 minutes later
Hello, I would be happy to help you with your question.

Your concern is understandable. Noone should "shake" your belly to try to get the baby to move. There are two concerns here that I would like to address:
1. Decreased fetal movement - at 27 weeks, there are usually fairly predictable patterns of fetal movement present. They usually move more after meals and in the evening, and they should be felt moving within ANY two hour window where you are paying attention. If you do not XXXXXXX these criteria, then for this reason alone you should contact your doctor.
2. Trauma during pregnancy - the fetus is actually quite well protected in the womb. The amniotic fluid serves as a buffer from any external pressure or forces. The most likely trauma to produce a problem is related to a direct blow to the belly (punch, steering wheel, kick, ball) or from sudden deceleration (as occurs in car accidencts). Just shaking of the belly by someone (assuming it was not violent) is unlikely to cause any harm.

A disruption of the placenta, called a placental abruption, is usually associated with contractions and sometims bleeding. It takes a significant force to cause this from trauma - as I described above.

That all being said, based on the reasons for trying to shake your belly in the first place (decreased fetal movement) you should call your OB/GYN and see if they want you to be seen to evaluate the fetus.

I hope that this helps!
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Follow-up: Pregnant, shaken abdomen to encourage baby to move. Could abdominal trauma result in cerebral palsy? 11 minutes later
Thank you for your response. I will contact my doctor about fetal movement. I do, however, have a follow-up question about the shaking of the belly. It was rapid, vigorous shaking with his hands on either side of my abdomen, but I did not feel any pain or discomfort at the time of the shaking. I have had no bleeding or contraction-like pain or discomfort since then. Is it possible that the shaking could harmed the baby or disrupted the placenta, or does it have to be something more traumatic (like a direct blow, as you described) to cause a problem?

I'm just wondering how concerned I should be about a placental disruption or damage to the baby from the shaking incident alone.
Answered by Dr. Timothy Raichle 2 hours later
Thank you for the followup question.

When we evaluate women with regard to fetal trauma, the highest risk is in the first 4 hours. Within that time period, if they are not contracting, not bleeding, and the fetus looks good on the monitor, then we send them home. Sometimes, to be sure that there is no evidence of placental abruption, we sometimes draw a lab called a "fetal-cell stain". This can indicate whether there was any 'breakage' of the placenta.

In answer to your question, it is certainly possible that there could be harm to the baby given what you describe. You should be evaluated as I described above. Given what you have described, I still think the risks are low.

Given your concerns, though, you need to go in to Labor and Delivery triage to be evaluated. Tell them exactly what happened. If the fetus looks good on the monitor and you are not contracting, then you will likely be sent home.

I really hope that this helps and good luck!
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
Follow-up: Pregnant, shaken abdomen to encourage baby to move. Could abdominal trauma result in cerebral palsy? 53 minutes later
I appreciate your follow-up response.

The shaking incident happened a week ago, and I had a routine ultrasound a few days later, after the shaking incident, which was normal. I did not mention the shaking of my abdomen to my doctor because, at the time, I was embarrassed that it had happened and thought it was a stupid question.

With the normal ultrasound a few days after the belly shaking incident, is it likely at all that the baby or the placenta was harmed or disrupted by the shaking?
Answered by Dr. Timothy Raichle 5 minutes later
Thank you for the followup.

Given the normal ultrasound, likely normal growth of the fetus, normal fluid volume, and lack of contractions or bleeding surrounding the shaking AND assuming that fetal movement has been normal since then, I would say that no harm was done related to the shaking.

There are quite a few factors that go into a healthy pregnancy. If there were later problems in the pregnancy of any kind, I would not blame them on that specific incident. There are no guarantees of a healthy outcome, but given the normal ultrasound, I would assume that everything is okay.

I hope that this helps!
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