Fetal Movement Introduction

You will probably start to feel your baby kicking between 16 and 25 weeks of pregnancy.
You will probably start to feel your baby kicking between 16 and 25 weeks of 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.

When Will I Feel My Baby Kicking?

You should feel your baby's first movements, called "quickening," between weeks 16 and 25 of your pregnancy. If this is your first pregnancy, you may not feel your baby move until closer to 25 weeks. By the second pregnancy, some women start to feel movements as early as 13 weeks. You're more likely to feel baby move when you're in a quiet position, either sitting or lying down.

What Does the Baby Kicking Feel Like?

Pregnant women describe their baby's movements as butterflies, nervous twitches, or a tumbling motion. At first, it may be hard to tell whether your baby has moved. Second- and third-time moms are more adept at distinguishing those first baby movements from gas, hunger pangs, and other internal motions.

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.

Second Trimester of Pregnancy

Most women find the second trimester of pregnancy easier than the first. But it is just as important to stay informed about your pregnancy during these months.

You might notice that symptoms like nausea and fatigue are going away. But other new, more noticeable changes to your body are now happening. Your abdomen will expand as the baby continues to grow. And before this trimester is over, you will feel your baby beginning to move!

How Often Should I Feel My Baby Moving?

Early in your pregnancy, you may just feel a few flutters 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.

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.

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Should I Monitor My Baby's Kicking?

Once your baby's movements are well established (usually by week 28), some doctors recommend keeping track of all those little punches, jabs, and kicks to make sure your baby is still developing the way they should. This is known as a fetal movement assessment, fetal kick count, or fetal movement counting. There isn't any real scientific evidence to prove whether this method is a good indicator of the baby's well-being, so check with your doctor to see what they recommend.

Counting is a lot harder when you have twins. You may not be able to tell which baby is moving. Even so, many doctors recommend it as a way to keep track.

If you are counting, it helps to chart your baby's kicks so that you can keep track of your baby's normal patterns of movement. To count movements, pick a time when your baby is usually most active (often, this is right after you've eaten a meal). Get into a comfortable position either sitting down in a comfortable chair or lying on your side. If you lie down, lie on your left side, so your baby will have better circulation.

Opinion varies as to how to count your baby's movements, but the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends noting the time it takes for your baby to make 10 movements. You should feel at least 10 movements within a 2-hour period.

If You Don't Feel Your Baby Moving

If you haven't yet reached 25 weeks and don't feel your baby move, or you're not sure that what you're feeling is actually your baby, don't panic. As your baby grows, you'll be able to better distinguish their movements. You'll also figure out at what times of the day your baby is most active. Some babies just naturally move less often than others.

A lack of movement also may mean that your baby is asleep. You may feel fewer kicks and jabs after the 32nd week as your baby gets bigger and has less room to move around in the uterus.

If your baby has started to move regularly and you don't feel at least 10 movements within a 2-hour period, or the movements have slowed significantly, it's time to call your doctor.

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 doctor if you notice significant changes in your baby’s usual activity. You should feel consistent movement throughout the day.

WebMD Medical Reference

IMAGES

Fetal Movement: Feeling Baby Kick Week-by-Week See pictures of a growing fetus through the 3 stages of pregnancy See Images

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Medically Reviewed on 1/8/2021
References
SOURCES:

American College of Obstetricians & Gynecologists: "Special Tests for Monitoring Fetal Health."

Mangesi, L. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, published online, Jan. 24, 2007.

Gabbe, S.G., Niebyl, J.R., and Simpson, J.L. Obstetrics: Normal and Problem Pregnancies, Churchill Livingstone, 2007.

Utah Department of Health: "Your Baby's Activity Record."

Johns Hopkins Manual of Gynecology and Obstetrics, 4th Edition, Lippincott Williams & Williams, 2010.

James D. Goldberg MD, medical director, San Francisco Perinatal Associates, San Francisco.

Reviewed by Traci C. Johnson, MD on January 08, 2021