Your baby’s movements during pregnancy

Your baby’s movements during pregnancy
Does your baby seem to be moving less than usual? Relax and pay close attention to your belly.

Excited to feel your baby’s first kicks? Here’s what to expect and how to tell if your baby is moving enough.

How a baby’s movements develop

You won’t be able to feel your baby moving until the second trimester of pregnancy.

  • Around week 7 or 8 of pregnancy, the embryo starts to make simple movements.
  • Most 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 pregnant women will not feel anything until after week 20, especially if they’re pregnant for the first time or if their placenta sits in the front of the uterus.
  • Around week 24 of pregnancy, almost all expectant mothers will be able to feel their baby’s movements.
  • In general, the baby’s movements increase in frequency until the 32nd week of pregnancy. They remain consistent until the baby is born.

How does it feel when your baby moves?

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 grow stronger. The baby’s leg and arm movements are short and sudden. Some pregnant women say they can feel their baby turning over.

Certain movements may even be visible. A mother may see her belly change shape and see a brief outline of a little elbow, foot, or hand.

Your baby’s movements may feel different toward the end of your pregnancy as space becomes more constricted. When the baby moves at this stage, it can be more painful and uncomfortable for the mother.

How often should you feel your baby moving?

The frequency of a baby’s movements varies greatly. Some babies are more active than others. However, there are certain factors that may affect how often the baby moves:

Pregnant women only feel 40% of their baby’s movements.
  • The baby’s position: Breech babies move around less.
  • Time of day: Some moms report that their babies are more active in the evening.
  • Mom’s position: Sitting or lying down may increase the frequency of movements.
  • Mom’s health: Some pregnant women notice that their babies move more when they’re hungry.

It’s normal to not feel your baby moving all the time. Remember: you saw your baby moving on the monitor during your ultrasound 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 the 30th week of pregnancy, you should expect to feel your baby move at least 10 times per day (over 24 hours), whether you’re active or not.

When should you worry?

No mother should have to worry about her baby’s health. There are simple, safe, and reliable tests to assess your baby’s health.

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 make a tick mark on a piece of paper every time you feel your baby move.

You should notice at least 10 distinct movements. 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, or if you notice a change in the frequency, strength, or timing of your baby’s movements, call the birth location where you’ll be delivering. Trust your intuition. A more precise evaluation with heart monitoring may be necessary to assess your baby’s health.

Things to keep in mind

  • You’ll be able to feel your baby’s first movements anywhere from 16 to 20 weeks into pregnancy.
  • Many factors can influence how often your baby moves.
  • After 26 weeks, if you feel like your baby’s movements have changed, trust your gut and pay close attention to their movements. If the feeling persists, consult your doctor immediately.
Naître et grandir

Scientific review: Dr. Chantal Ouellet, physician
Research and copywriting: The Naître et grandir team
Updated: November 2023

Photo : GettyImages/martin-dm

Sources and references

Note: The links to other websites are not updated regularly, and some URLs may have changed since publication. If a link is no longer valid, please use search engines to find the relevant information.

  • American Pregnancy Association. “Counting Baby Kicks.”
  • Bradford, Billie, and Robyn Maude. “Fetal response to maternal hunger and satiation — novel finding from a qualitative descriptive study of maternal perception of fetal movements.” BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, vol. 14, no. 288, 2014.
  • Doré, Nicole, and Danielle Le Hénaff. From Tiny Tot to Toddler: A practical guide for parents from pregnancy to age two. Quebec City, Institut national de santé publique du Québec.
  • Jakes, Adam D., et al. “Reduced fetal movements.” British Medical Journal, 2018.
  • Ladewig, Patricia, et al. Maternal & Child Nursing Care. 6th ed., London, Pearson, 2022, 1,448 pp.
  • Mangesi, Lindeka, et al. “Fetal movement counting for assessment of fetal wellbeing.” Cochrane Database Systematic Reviews, vol. 10, 2015.
  • Nikes, Kirsten M., et al. “Clinical Practical Guideline 441: Antenatal Fetal Health Surveillance.” Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada, vol. 45, no. 9, 2023, pp. 678–693.
  • Nowlan, N. C. “Biomechanics of foetal movement.” European Cells and Materials, vol. 29, 2015, pp. 1–21.
  • Raynes-Greenow, Camille H., et al. “A cross-sectional study of maternal perception of fetal movements and antenatal advice in a general pregnant population, using a qualitative framework.” BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, vol. 13, no. 32, 2013.
  • Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists. “Your baby’s movements in pregnancy.” 2019.
  • The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada. “Fetal movements and kick counts.”
  • The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada. “Fetal Health Surveillance.”