Your Baby’s Movements

Feeling your baby move is a sign they are well. If you notice your baby’s movements have changed call your midwife or maternity unit

When should I feel the baby move?

Most women usually begin to feel their baby move between 16 and 24 weeks of pregnancy. A baby’s movements can be described as anything from a kick, flutter, swish or roll. The type of movement may change as your pregnancy progresses.

CALL YOUR MIDWIFE OR MATERNITY UNIT IF YOU ARE EVER WORRIED OR IF YOU NOTICE A CHANGE IN YOUR BABY’S NORMAL MOVEMENTS.

Week to week guide to movement >>

How often should my baby move?

There is no set number of normal movements. Your baby will have their own pattern of movements that you should get to know. From 16 – 24 weeks on you should feel the baby move more and more up until 32 weeks then stay roughly the same until you give birth.

CALL YOUR MIDWIFE OR MATERNITY UNIT IF YOU ARE EVER WORRIED OR IF YOU NOTICE A CHANGE IN YOUR BABY’S NORMAL MOVEMENTS.

How many movements or kicks should I feel?

There is no set number of kicks you should be feeling, what is important is that you know what is normal for your individual baby. If you notice a decrease in your baby’s regular movement pattern contact your midwife.

There is a common misconception that you should be feeling 10 kicks over a set period, this is no longer recommended as all babies are different. You can find out more here about the origins of ‘count to ten’ and why it is not used. Baby’s movements can vary from 4 to over 100 every hour so counting to 10 kicks would be irrelevant for most of the population. It is important to know what is normal for your baby and report any change in that. Read more about your baby’s movements week by week

Should I prompt my baby's movements?

If you have noticed your baby’s movements have slowed down, call your midwife or maternity unit.  Do not consume large quantities of something to prompt your baby to kick as this may give indigestion or gurgles you may mistake for movements and give false reassurance.

If you are unsure if your baby’s movements have slowed down, take some time to focus on movements.

CALL YOUR MIDWIFE OR MATERNITY UNIT IF YOU ARE EVER WORRIED OR IF YOU NOTICE A CHANGE IN YOUR BABY’S NORMAL MOVEMENTS.

Why are my baby's movements important?

Reduced fetal movement can be a sign that the baby is in distress although this is not the only cause.

2 out of 3 mums who have a stillbirth say they noticed their baby’s movements slow down beforehand. It is therefore important that all cases of reduced movement are reported to your midwife or maternity unit. 

Following the Confidential Enquiry into Stillbirths and Deaths in Infancy, lack of prompt management has been recognised as a contributing factor for stillbirth. This is why it is so important to seek help whenever you notice a change to your baby’s regular pattern of movement. You can read more here about why it is so important to monitor your baby’s movements 

Why are my babies movements important? >>
What shall I do if I notice reduced movement?

If you think your baby’s movements have slowed down or stopped, contact your midwife or maternity unit immediately (it is staffed 24 hours, 7 days a week). Do not put off calling until the next day to see what happens.

Do not worry about phoning, it is important for your doctors and midwives to know if your baby’s movements have slowed down or stopped.

Do not use any hand-held monitors, dopplers, or phone apps to check your baby’s heartbeat. Even if you detect a heartbeat, this does not mean your baby is well. Read more about the dangers of home dopplers

What causes my baby to move less? >>

What care should I receive? >>
What if my baby's movements are reduced again?

If, after your check up, you are still not happy with your baby’s movements, you must contact either your midwife or maternity unit straight away, even if everything was normal last time.

Never hesitate to contact your midwife or the maternity unit for advice, no matter how many times this happens.

Why shouldn't I use a home doppler?

Home dopplers are becoming more and more common but many aren’t aware of the dangers of using them for reassurance. If you are worried about your baby’s movements it is important to be monitored by a CTG or a midwife who can interpret the baby’s heartbeat. Assuming the home doppler is being used properly and is not picking up the mothers heartbeat or the placenta, the presence of a heartbeat does not indicate the baby is well. Any interventions that could save a baby in distress would need to be done when the baby has a heartbeat, leaving it until there is no heartbeat is too late. Please do not let a home doppler delay you from seeking medical attention if you notice a change in your baby’s movements.

If you saw a person in the street showing symptoms of a stroke or fainting would you delay phoning an ambulance because they still had a heartbeat?

It is vital that medical intervention is sought when the baby still has a heartbeat in all incidences of reduced fetal movement. So if you have any concerns about your baby’s movements contact your midwife, do not rely on a home doppler.

Won’t monitoring baby’s movements just make me more anxious?

There is always an element of worry in pregnancy but we don’t think that monitoring movement really makes mums more anxious. There are various studies that show that it actually helps to lower anxiety as mums feel more in control and less vulnerable. By being aware of movements mums are more empowered to help their baby if they notice a problem. Anyone who is experiencing anxiety over any aspect of their pregnancy should talk to their midwife who can offer help and support.

I have been told I have an anterior placenta, what does this mean for baby movement?

Having an anterior placenta can make baby movements harder to feel as they are “cushioned” – it is therefore likely that someone with a placenta in this position will feel first movements later than most. It is important to remember that an anterior placenta will not be a reason for reduced movement. The placenta will always be in the same place so if you notice a reduction do not justify it by the fact you have an anterior placenta, you still need to report it. You can find more information here.

Why should I not count to 10?

One of the greatest challenges is the lack of consensus on what is a ‘normal’ number of fetal movements and over what specified time frame. Fetal movements vary from four to 100 every hour and so definitions of reduced fetal movement based on counting less than 10 movements in two, 12 or 24 hours are unhelpful.

For a mum who usually feels her baby move 50 times over 12 hours, if the baby reduced their movements to only 20 it could be a sign the baby is in distress. However if she used the count to ten method, she would not seek help as she met the ‘recommended’ number.

Likewise a woman who usually only feels 8, may end up phoning the hospital unnecessarily every day as she never meets the ten required.

The other issue with fixing a set number of fetal movements is there is no way to know what a woman is classing as her baby’s movements. Because it relies on perceptions from individuals rather than an independent monitoring system, there may be major differences between what one mum counts as her baby moving and what another counts as hers.

Therefore the safest and most reliable method of monitoring baby’s movements is to encourage the mum to get to know her baby’s own pattern of movement. She will then be able to determine if her baby has a period of reduced or increased fetal movement.

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If you want to know how you can monitor your babies movements, please click here.

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