Fetal Movement

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The First Movements

Most moms won’t feel the baby kick until sometime between 16 and 22 weeks, even though the baby started moving at about 8 weeks. Veteran moms tend to notice those first subtle kicks — also known as “quickening” — earlier than first-time moms. and may even feel them as early as 13 weeks. Other things such as the placental location, or the amount of fluid around the baby may also alter the timing of the quickening.

What does it feel like?

Women have described the sensation as being like popcorn popping, a goldfish swimming around, or butterflies fluttering. You’ll probably chalk up those first gentle taps or swishes in your belly to gas or hunger pains, but once you start feeling them more regularly, you’ll recognize the difference. You’re more likely to feel these early movements when you’re sitting or lying down quietly.

How often should I feel movements?

At first the kicks you notice will be few and far between. In fact, you may feel several movements one day and then none the next. Although your baby is moving and kicking regularly, many of the movements aren’t strong enough for you to feel. During the second trimester, however, the kicks will become stronger and more regular.

Don’t worry if your experience differs from that of your friends. Every baby has his own pattern of activity, and there’s no correct one. As long as your baby’s usual activity level doesn’t change much, chances are they are doing fine.

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Do I need to keep track of the kicking?

Once you’re feeling kicks regularly, pay attention to them and let your doctor know right away if you notice a decrease in your baby’s movement. Less movement may signal a problem, and you’ll may need fetal testing to check on your baby’s condition.

Once you’re in your third trimester, we recommend that you spend some time each day counting your baby’s kicks. There are lots of different ways to do these “kick counts,” but our office usually recommends you to choose a time of day when your baby tends to be most active. (Ideally, you’ll want to do the counts at roughly the same time each day.) Sit quietly or lie on your side and time how long it takes for you to feel ten distinct movements — kicks, twitches, and whole body movements all count. It should take you roughly the same amount of time to feel the movements each day. If you haven’t felt movement within the first hour, drink some water, or soda, and eat a small snack. If you don’t feel ten movements in two hours, stop counting and call our office or come to triage immediately.