Fetal movement: Feeling your baby kick

When will I start to feel my baby move?

You probably won’t feel your baby kick until sometime between 16 and 22 weeks, even though he started moving at 7 or 8 weeks, and you may have already witnessed his acrobatics if you’ve had an ultrasound.

Veteran moms tend to notice those first subtle kicks – also known as “quickening” – earlier than first-time moms. (A woman who’s been pregnant before can more easily distinguish her baby’s kicks from other belly rumblings, such as gas.)

Your build may also have something to do with when you’ll be able to tell a left jab from a hunger pang. Thinner women tend to feel movement earlier and more often than women who carry more weight.

What do fetal movements 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 quietly.

How often should I feel fetal 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 his jerks and jolts aren’t yet strong enough for you to feel. But later in the second trimester, those reassuring kicks will become stronger and more regular.

If you’re tempted to compare notes with other pregnant women, don’t worry if your experience differs from that of your friends. Every baby has his own pattern of activity. As long as there’s no decrease in your baby’s usual activity level, chances are he’s doing just fine.

Will my baby kick less toward the end of my pregnancy?

No. Even though your growing baby will take up more and more space in your uterus, he should not become less active. You may even feel his movements more as he gets stronger and has less room.

Do I need to keep track of my baby’s kicks?

Once you’re feeling kicks regularly, pay attention to them and let your practitioner know right away if you notice a decrease in your baby’s activity level. Less movement may signal a problem. You’ll need a biophysical profile or a nonstress test plus an ultrasound measurement of amniotic fluid to check on your baby.

Once you’re in your third trimester, some practitioners will recommend that you spend some time each day counting your baby’s kicks. There are lots of different ways to do these “kick counts,” so ask for specific instructions.

Here’s one common approach: Choose a time of day when your baby tends to be active. (Ideally, you’ll want to do the counts at roughly the same time each day.) Sit quietly or lie on your side so you won’t get distracted.

Time how long it takes for you to feel ten distinct movements – kicks, punches, and whole body movements all count. If you don’t feel ten movements in two hours, stop counting and call your midwife or doctor.

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