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Atypical Fetal Response to the Mother's Voice in Diabetic Compared With Overweight Pregnancies

Kisilevsky, Barbara S. PhD*,†; Gilmour, Antonella MSc*; Stutzman, Sherri S. MSc*; Hains, Sylvia M. J. PhD*; Brown, C. Ann PhD*

Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics: January 2012 - Volume 33 - Issue 1 - p 55–61
doi: 10.1097/DBP.0b013e31823e791e
Original Articles

Objective: To characterize fetal spontaneous heart rate changes and movements and auditory-elicited heart rate changes in fetuses in diabetic pregnancies compared with those in uneventful, overweight pregnancies. Methods: Spontaneous heart rate and movements and maternal voice-elicited heart rate changes were observed in 46 mother-fetal pairs (n = 14 gestational diabetic and n = 32 overweight prepregnancy) at 36 (±1) weeks gestational age. Fetal heart rate changes, body movements, and breathing movements were observed for 20 minutes while the mother was at rest. Subsequently, each fetus was presented with a 2-minute audio recording of the mother's voice using the following 6-minute procedure: 2 minutes no-voice baseline, 2 minutes voice presentation, and 2 minutes no-voice postvoice period; heart rate was recorded continuously. Results: There were no differences in spontaneous heart rate changes, body movements, or breathing movements between the 2 groups. Fetuses in the overweight group showed an increase in the heart rate during the playing of their mother's voice, whereas fetuses in the diabetic group showed no response. Conclusions: Fetuses in overweight pregnancies responded to the mother's voice with an increase in the heart rate as has been reported previously in uneventful pregnancies. The lack of response to the mother's voice in fetuses in diabetic pregnancies may represent immature neural or auditory system development, an increased sensorineural threshold, and thyroid or iron deficiency.

From the *School of Nursing, Queen's University, †Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Queen's University and Kingston General Hospital, Kingston, ON, Canada.

Received March 2011; accepted September 2011.

This study was supported by Ontario Graduate Student Award and a Great West Life/London Life Graduate Scholarship (to A.G.).

Disclosure: The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Address for reprints: Barbara S. Kisilevsky, PhD, School of Nursing, Queens' University, 92 Barrie Street, Kingston, ON, Canada K7L 3N6; e-mail:

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.