Can a Fetus Get Shaken-Baby Syndrome?


Dear Midwife,

Hi. I'm Chelsea and I'm 5 months pregnant. I enjoy feeling my baby girl move. I do this by applying small to medium amounts of pressure to my tummy causing her to respond with movement, kicking, or rolling around. I am very thin for my height which caused me to begin to feel her movements at about 16 to 18 weeks.

Yesterday, a friend wanted to feel. To arouse baby Jamie, she used the same medium-light pressure that I do but was shaking her head quickly, almost vigorously up and down. She did this a few times and would also lightly squeeze or poke at my tummy, I'm almost sure I'm over-reacting, because while she did it, it did not bother me, however, when she left she said bye baby Jamie with a light rub and mentioned, "now that I've shaken her to death I should probably leave her be."

This bothered me and I am SO afraid that I could have caused shaken baby syndrome, or some sort of retardation or brain damage. Everything I do I'm cautious and I can't believe I let this by. I'm so afraid I did something wrong. I could never forgive myself. I was hoping you could tell me everything is okay and she's well protected in there. It's making me worry like crazy. Please write back.

Thank-you.A SUPER worried mom to be,


It is unlikely that your friend caused shaken baby syndrome, but it is a good idea to be very gentle with your baby in the future, just to be safe.

-- Cynthia, CNM. PhD.

Cynthia Flynn

Cynthia Flynn, CNM. PhD, is the General Director of the Family Health and Birth Center which provides prenatal, birth, postnatal, gynecological and primary health care to underserved women and their families in Washington, D.C. Recently Cynthia served as Associate Professor of Nursing at Seattle University. There she not only taught, but remained in full scope clinical midwifery practice at Valley Medical Center where she cared for pregnant and birthing women, and practices well-woman gynecology, family planning, and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases.

Cynthia founded Columbia Women's Clinic and Birth Center, where she took care of pregnant women and infants up to two weeks of age and attended both birth center and hospital births. Before Cynthia earned her CNM, she worked as a registered nurse in labor and delivery and postpartum and is a certified Doula and Doula trainer.