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Counting kicks, and other movements, during pregnancy

One of the things expectant mothers look forward to is feeling their baby move – whether it’s kicks, rolls, wiggles or flutters. The movements you feel may vary during your pregnancy – from what you feel and when the movements start.

When does baby start moving?

Most first-time expecting moms feel the first fetal movement between 15 to 20 weeks. Before then, your baby is too tiny for movements to be noticed.

“It’s OK if you’re 21 weeks pregnant and are just feeling kicks now,” said Dr. David Hirsch, OB/GYN with Marshfield Clinic Health System. “When you first feel movement, that’s when you want to continue to feel it.”

For women who are 20 weeks along or more and are concerned about not feeling movement yet, Dr. Hirsch encourages them to talk to their provider.

“We’ll look at the ultrasound most women would normally get around 20 weeks,” he said. ‘If everything looks normal, we will look again around 25 weeks.”

Image of mother feeling baby move during pregnancy
The movements you feel may vary during your pregnancy – from what you feel and when the movements start.

Why counting movements is important

Monitoring your baby’s movements helps you to learn what a normal amount of movement is. Knowing when your baby is active and the movements it makes can help identify potential problems.

“It’s important to monitor all movement, rather than just kicks,” said Dr. Hirsch. “Anything from the flutter a mom might feel at 16 weeks to where you can see baby parts moving across your belly all counts.”

Dr. Hirsch said what women want to especially watch for is a decrease in fetal movement. If you’re worried and believe you’re not feeling the baby move as much, focus on getting an accurate count for a few hours. The most commonly quoted recommendation to watch for is 10 movements in two hours.

“When you first notice movement, it should increase in intensity and be relatively consistent as your pregnancy progresses,” he said. “The 10 movements usually happen in less time than two hours.”

An increase in fetal movement is OK

Don’t worry if your baby is unusually active. Baby kicks and other movements – no matter how frequent – are considered a normal and healthy part of development.

“We notice babies are usually more active at night,” Dr. Hirsch said. “What mom eats throughout the day may change the amount of movement. It also may just be moms paying more attention to it at night.”

Most women feel 10 movements before two hours has passed. But, failure to meet the movement standard in two hours is cause for intervention.

“It’s great for helping decrease the bad outcomes if you notice you are not feeling 10 movements in two hours,” he said. “If you aren’t noticing the normal movement, come in and see your provider. We’ll do an evaluation and see if everything is OK. If not, we may be able to intervene and save a life.”

He stresses the importance of watching for a decrease in the baseline.

“Don’t wait too long to go in. If it’s been a few hours and you haven’t felt baby move, stop what you’re doing and pay attention and see if you feel baby move. If you don’t, call your provider. It’s that important,” Dr. Hirsch said.

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