Fetal Movement During Pregnancy

One of the most exciting moments in your pregnancy is when you feel those first little flutters of your baby kicking. These tiny movements reassure you that your baby is developing and help you feel closer to the little life inside of you.

Feeling your baby kick, twist, wriggle, punch and hiccup is simply one of pregnancy biggest thrills (and it sure beats heartburn, puffy feet, an aching back and other hallmarks of these nine months), and will vary throughout your pregnancy. 

In the beginning, your baby’s movement will be erratic, so don’t sweat it if you go for long stretches without remembering there’s a little person-to-be doing flips inside you.

Fetal movement during pregnancy can also drive a mom-to-be batty with questions and doubts. Although every baby is different when it comes to fetal movement and there’s a wide range of what’s normal, it helps to take a peek into your baby’s world to understand what’s going on in there, and what to expect when.

What does baby movement feel like?

They’re almost as hard to describe as they are to recognize. Pregnant women usually describe the baby’s first movements as flutters, and they can be so subtle that you might mistake them for gas bubbles. “Initially they feel like a butterfly,” Dr. Artal says. “Later on it feels like kicking.” Between 24 and 28 weeks, the movements become strong enough that your partner may be able to feel them by placing a hand on your growing belly. By your second and third trimesters, the movements should be more distinct, and you’ll be able to feel your baby’s kicks, jabs, and elbows. Eventually, you may even see the shape of the elbow or foot that’s nudging you.

What’s my baby doing when I feel her move?

The first thing a baby does is big body movements, such as flexing and extending the arms and legs,” Dr. Keller says. Hiccups begin around 11 weeks, as the neurological system develops, but you won’t feel the rhythmic, recurring jerks that signal them until much later. Some women may be able to perceive big movements, such as when the baby switches positions. If you’ve been feeling pain in your rib cage and then suddenly it’s gone, it’s likely your baby was in a breech position with her head sticking into your ribs and she did turn 180 degrees to get ready for delivery.

How Often Should I Feel My Baby Moving?

There isn’t really a normal pattern of movements for all babies. Every baby is different. Some are more active than others and even at different times. The key is to get to know what’s normal for your baby, so you can tell if there are any changes to his daily habits. Early in your pregnancy, you may just feel a few movements every now and then. But as your baby grows usually by the end of the second trimester the kicks should grow stronger and more frequent. Studies show that by the third trimester, the baby moves about 30 times each hour.

Some babies kick like crazy after dinner, others go nuts at bedtime. With time, you’ll get to know the baby’s usual patterns of movement. And it usually goes like this. Baby will have active periods followed by periods with very little movement. Babies tend to move more at certain times of the day as they alternate between alertness and sleep. They are usually most active between 9 p.m. and 1 a.m., right as you’re trying to get to sleep. This surge in activity is due to your changing blood sugar levels. Babies also can respond to sounds or touch, and may even kick your partner in the back if you snuggle too close in bed.

Should I Monitor My Baby’s Kicking?

To ensure that everything is progressing as expected, your doctor will want you to “count kicks,” or fetal movements, starting in week 28 through the end of your pregnancy. 

How often: Set aside some quiet time twice a day to count kicks, once in the morning, when fetal kicks and punches tend to be less frequent, and once in the more active evening hours when there’s usually an increase in baby’s movement.

What to do: Check the clock and start counting. Count movements of any kind (fetal kicks, flutters, swishes, rolls). Stop counting when you reach 10, and note the time.

Look for: 10 movements of any kind in an hour or less is normal, though sometimes it will take longer. If you don’t feel your baby move 10 times by the end of two hours, try again later in the day. Then if you still can’t feel 10 movements in two hours, or your baby is much less active than normal, call your healthcare provider, who can check your baby’s heart rate and movements.

Timeline of Baby Movement

Here is a guide to your baby’s possible movements.
Week 12: Your baby should start to move, but you probably won’t be able to feel anything, because the baby is still so small.
Week 16: Some pregnant women will start to feel tiny butterfly-like flutters. The feeling might just be gas, or it might be the baby moving.
Week 20: By this point in your baby’s development, you may start to really feel your baby’s first movements, called “quickening.”
Week 24: The baby’s movements are starting to become more established. You might also begin to feel slight twitches as your baby hiccups.
Week 28: Your baby is moving often now. Some of the kicks and jabs may take your breath away.
Week 36: Your uterus is getting crowded as the baby grows, and movements should slow down a bit. However, alert your healthcare provider if you notice significant changes in your baby’s usual activity. You should feel consistent movement throughout the day.


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