by Dr. Nicole Calloway Rankins
Your baby moving is such an exciting milestone during your pregnancy. Feeling my baby move was by far my favorite part about being pregnant (it was actually the only thing I enjoyed about being pregnant). It’s so reassuring to feel those kicks, rolls, hiccups, twists, and punches.
A normal amount of movement isn’t only reassuring for you, it’s a physiologic sign that your baby is well. When a baby is experiencing a lack of oxygen or distress, they compensate by slowing down movements to preserve energy.
So needless to say, understanding your baby’s movement is important. Read on to learn everything you need to know about feeling your baby move.
When will I start feeling my baby move?
Movement can be seen on ultrasound as early as 7 or 8 weeks of pregnancy! However, you won’t perceive your baby moving until between 16 to 20 weeks of pregnancy. If you’ve had a baby before, you’ll likely feel your baby move closer to 16 weeks than to 20 weeks. The first movements can be described as a fluttering sensation.
How often will I feel my baby move?
Your baby’s movement will vary depending on the time of day and how far along you are in your pregnancy. Movement tends to increase during the day and be at its highest at night, but that's not a hard and fast rule. You’ll feel your baby move consistently once you get into the 3rd trimester (28 weeks and beyond). But because your baby has less room to move the further along you get, you may not feel the movement as strongly as your pregnancy progresses.
You may be surprised to hear that you won’t feel all your baby’s movements. Studies show that women feel anywhere from 33% to 88% of movements seen on ultrasound.
There’s no universally accepted definition of what's considered a normal amount of movement. A decreased amount of movement is based on what you perceive. You’ll quickly get to know what feels normal for you and when things feel off. It’s different for every woman and for every pregnancy. For my first pregnancy she moved ALL. THE. TIME. She moved so much that my husband Falcon thought something was wrong. My second pregnancy was different. She didn’t really get moving until later in the morning and she was more laid back in the way she moved.
Normal movement is more formally assessed by doing “kick counts”. The most common ways of doing kick counts are as follows:
WAYS TO MONITOR YOUR BABY'S MOVEMENT ("KICK COUNTS")
If you need help keeping track of your baby’s movement, there are apps you can download to help you. Search for "kick counts" wherever you get your apps.
What should I do if my baby isn’t moving like normal?
You’ll likely get concerned at some point that your baby isn’t moving as much. But usually the concern is short lived and you won’t need to contact your doctor. About 15% of women will experience decreased movement for long enough that they call their doctor.
If you’re not feeling your baby move like normal, drink or eat something sweet to try and stimulate your baby, and then concentrate on the movement. If you don’t feel at least 10 movements in 2 hours then call your doctor. She’ll tell you to come in to the office or hospital for something called a non-stress test (NST). A NST is when you’re placed on a monitor and your baby’s heart rate is monitored for at least 20 minutes. The NST alone will be reassuring more than 95% of the time. If the NST is not reassuring , you’ll need additional testing with ultrasound. If you’re full term (37 weeks or more), induction may be recommended.
There is a caveat about monitoring your baby’s movement. Research has not conclusively shown a benefit to monitoring for decreased movement. It’s unclear why. More research is being done to help determine if monitoring your baby's movement is useful to help prevent bad outcomes (like stillbirth). In the meantime, recommendations remain the same.
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I wish you a wonderful pregnancy and birth!