Ahhh, baby kicks — those sweet little fluttery movements in your belly that let you know your baby is twisting, turning, rolling, and somersaulting around in your womb. So fun, right?
Sure, until baby’s gentle stretches turn into ninja jabs to your rib cage and knock the wind right out of you while you’re on a conference call.
Other tricks your baby might have up their sleeve during their time in the womb include:
- not moving around much at all some days (sending you into a state of panic)
- refusing to move when Grandma’s waiting patiently with her hand on your stomach
- settling into uncomfortable positions on a permanent basis, no matter how badly you would love for them to just scootch to the left, like, 2 inches
Here’s the truth: Sometimes you’re out of luck when it comes to getting your baby to move on command, but there are some tricks for coaxing them into moving and grooving when you want them to.
Here’s a guide to when your baby will start moving regularly, how you can get them to change positions (or let you know they’re awake in there!), and when you should pay attention to a lack of movement.
For a first-time expectant mom, most fetal movements can be felt between 16 and 25 weeks of pregnancy, aka sometime during the second trimester. This is also called quickening. At first, these movements will feel like flutters, or strange sensations in your abdomen.
In later pregnancies, you might feel your baby moving sooner because you know what to expect — and are more attuned to the subtle difference between baby kicks and intestinal gas! But even still, going periods of time without feeling any movement in the second trimester isn’t a huge cause for concern; sometimes it might feel like baby’s taking a day off, and that’s OK.
As you move fully into your third trimester, though, baby movements should be a regular occurrence. They’ll also be much stronger, too — baby kicks aren’t flutters anymore, they’re actually kicks. Clinicians recommend beginning
Know that some babies will naturally be more or less active than others. It’s helpful to have a baseline understanding of what’s normal for your baby and measure or track movement from there.
You may even be able to observe some consistency in the timing of the movement (like most mornings around 9:30 a.m.) or the cause for movement (like every time you eat pizza!).
You don’t have to worry much about tracking baby movements during the second trimester, but if your baby seems a little off-schedule and you want to check on them — or you just want to feel them in there for fun — there’s no shortage of strategies to get the party started during the second trimester.
- Have a snack. The spike in your blood sugar will have an effect on your baby, too, and can get them moving. Don’t overdo it on the sugary sweets, but a few pieces of chocolate is a reliable way to send a boost of energy directly to your baby.
- Drink something. Chug a glass of cold OJ or milk; the natural sugars and the chilly temperature of the drink are usually enough to spur movement in your baby. (This is a popular trick in mom circles that actually does seem to work.)
- Make some noise. Your baby’s sense of hearing is pretty developed halfway through the second trimester, so talking or singing to your baby, or even putting headphones on your stomach and playing music, might encourage them to start moving.
- Caffeinate (in moderation). The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that expectant moms consume no more than 200 milligrams (mg) of caffeine per day, but if you haven’t had your daily cuppa yet, the jolt of caffeine may have a similar effect as sugar on your baby. (One 8-ounce cup of coffee contains an average of 95 mg of caffeine.)
- Check your position. If you’re standing up, lie down. If you’re already lying down, change sides. You know how your baby just loves to get super active as soon as you lie down to sleep every night? You can use this to your advantage here.
- Gentle nudging. If you can feel that your baby’s back or butt is pressed up against your stomach, place some gentle pressure there to see if they respond with movement. Be careful, obviously, but your baby is pretty safe in there — and sometimes nudging them causes them to nudge you right back!
Less tried-and-true, more urban legend:
- Do quick, vigorous exercise. Some moms report that a short burst of exercise (like jogging in place) is enough to wake up their baby in the womb.
- Shine a flashlight on your tummy. Towards the middle of the second trimester, your baby may be able to tell the difference between light and dark; a moving light source may interest them. But no promises.
- Get excited. Some moms have had luck giving themselves an adrenaline surge. Just make sure your source of choice is pregnancy-safe (e.g., don’t hop on a roller coaster).
- Spicy food. Does baby dance the flamenco every time you eat a burrito? Spicy foods are anecdotally known for having baby-moving powers. But they’re also known for causing pregnancy heartburn.
- Aggressively relax. That sounds like an oxymoron, we know, but engaging in some legit self-care (like a safe massage or warm — not hot! — bubble bath) may allow you to notice more fetal movement than usual.
You’re 32 weeks pregnant, it’s 2 p.m., and you realize you haven’t felt your baby move yet today. Don’t panic: It’s possible that baby has been active and you just didn’t notice. (Hey, you’re busy!)
First, sit or lie down somewhere for a few minutes, turning all your attention to your baby. Do you feel any movement at all? It might be subtle, or your baby might be in a different-than-usual position that makes feeling movement a little more difficult.
If this sets your baby in motion, start counting your kicks by timing how long it takes to feel 10 fetal movements. If an hour goes by and you haven’t felt 10, try a baby-moving trick (like drinking OJ, having a sweet snack, or lying down on your side) and wait another hour to see if you can count 10 movements.
If, after 2 hours, your kick counting score isn’t where it should be or you still don’t feel any movement at all, call your doctor ASAP. It’s likely there’s nothing wrong, but your provider will probably ask you to come by the office for a quick checkup. They can listen for your baby’s heartbeat and, if necessary, refer you for an ultrasound.
By 38 weeks, things are getting pretty crowded in your uterus. And every time your baby so much as stretches, you feel it: in your ribs (ouch), on your bladder (the constant need for a bathroom is real), and on your cervix (yikes).
If your baby decided to drop right now, it would be a welcome change; you can barely walk from the kitchen to the bathroom without getting short of breath, and pregnancy heartburn is keeping you up at night.
The bad news is that some babies don’t drop until right before — or even during — labor, so there’s no guarantee your baby will relocate further down into your pelvis anytime soon.
But the good news is you might be able to encourage baby to start their downward trajectory and get a little relief. You can try:
- doing pelvic tilts or pregnancy-safe stretches
- doing regular light physical activity and exercise
- sitting on a birthing ball or sitting with your legs crossed several times per day
- making an appointment with a chiropractor (if your healthcare provider gives you permission)
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news here, but some babies are just plain stubborn. You can dance around your living room after eating five-alarm chili and chugging glasses of OJ, and they’re still not going to dislodge their cute little baby buttocks from under your third rib.
If you’re desperate, there’s no harm in trying to coax your baby out of an uncomfortable position and into one that lets you literally breathe a little easier. There’s just no guarantee that any of these tricks will work, but they’re worth a shot. Try:
- practicing supported squatting against a wall
- tilting your pelvis forward while sitting (sit on a pillow and cross your legs in front of you)
- positioning yourself on your hands and knees (think table pose) and rocking gently back and forth
- sitting on a birthing ball and rotating your hips
- sleeping on the side you want baby to move toward (because, gravity)
Babies move just as much inside the womb as outside of it, though you might not be aware of what your baby is up to until sometime during your second trimester. At this point, you don’t need to worry much about tracking baby’s movements.
But by the third trimester, you should have a plan for counting kicks once or twice a day. If you’re worried about how often your baby is moving, don’t hesitate to call your doctor.