Does your baby seem to be moving less than usual? Relax and pay close attention to your belly.
It’s a moment that many moms look forward to: Their baby’s first movements. In addition to fostering the parent-child bond, your baby’s movements during pregnancy can provide information about their health.
How a baby’s movements develop
Around week 7 of pregnancy, the baby starts to make some simple movements. However, they only really start squirming at around 10 weeks’ gestation. The majority of moms who have already had a child will notice their baby’s movements anywhere from 16 to 18 weeks into their pregnancy. However, about a quarter of women have to wait until after their 20th week to feel anything, especially if they’re pregnant for the first time or if their placenta sits in the front of the uterus.
A baby’s first movements are often described as vibrations. Some moms describe them as butterflies or air bubbles bursting. As the pregnancy progresses, these sensations get stronger. The baby’s leg and arm movements are short and sudden. Some pregnant women say they can feel their baby turning. Certain movements may even be visible. A mother may see her belly change shape and see a brief outline of an elbow, a foot, or a hand.
In general, the baby’s movements increase in frequency until the 32nd week of pregnancy. They remain consistent until the baby is born. As the baby has less room to move near the end of pregnancy, their movements are smaller and may feel different. Their space is restricted, so they can only turn and attempt to stretch their spinal column. When the baby moves at this stage, it can be more painful and uncomfortable for the mother.
Factors that influence how often the baby moves
The frequency of a baby’s movements varies greatly, ranging from 4 to 100 movements per hour. Some babies are more active than others. However, there are certain factors that may affect how often the baby moves.
- Baby’s position: Breech babies move around less.
- Time of day: Some moms say that their baby is more active in the evening.
- Mom’s position: Sitting or lying down may increase how often the movements occur.
- Mom’s condition: Some pregnant women report that their baby moves more when they’re hungry.
When should I worry?
It’s normal to not feel your baby moving all the time. Remember that during the ultrasound, you saw your baby moving on the monitor but couldn’t feel them inside your body. Also, you may not feel your baby’s movements on days when you’re particularly active or distracted. That said, after your 30th week, expect to feel your baby move at least 10 times per day (24 hours), whether you’re active or not.
After 26 weeks, if you can’t feel your baby move, or if their movements are less frequent, try to relax and pay close attention for the next 2 hours. Lie on your left side and draw a checkmark on a piece of paper every time you feel your baby move. You should note at least 6 distinct movements during the 2-hour period. If not, call your birth location or go to the hospital right away so the health of your baby can be assessed.
If you’re worried, call your doctor or midwife.If your prenatal care provider can’t be reached, contact the delivery room of the hospital where you’ll be giving birth. An ultrasound may be necessary to verify the health of your baby.
Things to keep in mind
You can feel your baby’s first movements anywhere from 16 to 20 weeks into pregnancy.
Many factors can influence how often the baby moves.
After 26 weeks, contact your doctor or midwife if you notice that your baby’s movements have changed.
Scientific review: Dr. Chantal Ouellet, physician
Research and copywriting: The Naître et grandir team
Updated: April 2019
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