General movements assessment factsheet

Introduction

The general movements assessment checks babies from birth to four months for early signs of motor delay and neurological issues, like cerebral palsy

It is used for babies who:

  • were born prematurely, before 37 weeks of pregnancy
  • had issues before, during, or after birth.

 Before the test

The general movements assessment is one of the tests used to check your baby’s development. Your baby’s treatment team will discuss this assessment with you and answer any questions.

 During the test

The assessment involves taking a short video of your baby while they are awake and moving. Your baby will be filmed while calm and lying on their back in a cot or on the floor, wearing only a nappy. 

The video will be reviewed by your baby’s treatment team, who will check for any signs of delay.

This test might be done multiple times while your baby is in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) or special care nursery (SCN).

A follow-up video will be recorded when your baby is 12-14 weeks old or the corrected age if they were born prematurely. 

This can be done at home or during a NICU clinic review by your child’s treatment team.

 After the test

Babies who are found to have early signs of motor delay will:

  • be referred to an outpatient therapy team
  • see a physiotherapist for play ideas to promote movement skills
  • continue to have their development checked as they grow.

 Management

Consent and privacy

You will be given a consent form to read and sign before the assessment. This is because a video will be recorded of your child.

You will be given information about:

  • how the video is stored
  • who can see the video
  • whether the video can be used for training purposes.

Your child’s treatment team can answer any questions or concerns you have.

Spontaneous movements

All babies move on their own, whether they are born prematurely or at term. These early movements, called spontaneous movements, can start around eight weeks of pregnancy. 

Spontaneous movements can include:

  • stretches
  • yawns
  • startles.

Spontaneous movements will slowly become more complex and regular as your baby grows during pregnancy and after birth.

General movements are the most complex and frequent type of movement. They can vary in size and speed and involve the:

  • arms
  • legs 
  • neck
  • body.
Last updated Monday 8th July 2024

Disclaimer

This factsheet is provided for general information only. It does not constitute health advice and should not be used to diagnose or treat any health condition.

Please consult with your doctor or other health professional to make sure this information is right for you and/or your child.

The Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network does not accept responsibility for inaccuracies or omissions, the interpretation of the information, or for success or appropriateness of any treatment described in the factsheet.

© Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network 2024


This factsheet was produced with support from John Hunter Children's Hospital.