Feeling your baby’s first kick can be one of the most exciting milestones of pregnancy. Sometimes all it takes is that little movement to make everything seem more real and bring you closer to your baby.
But while you expect your baby to move at some point in your pregnancy, you may have questions about what’s normal and what’s not (the ongoing concern you’ll probably have in all things parenthood).
Well, we’ve got answers. But first off: Remember that every pregnancy is different, so your baby might move earlier or later than a friend’s baby (or that baby you read about on a mommy blog).
But if you’re looking for a general guide, here’s what you need to know about fetal movement at different stages.
Whether it’s your first, second, or third pregnancy, you’re probably eager to feel that first move or kick. Did I just feel a wiggle? Or was that gas? And if you haven’t felt anything yet, you may wonder just when it’s going to happen. Kid’s gotta stretch their legs at some point, right?
But the truth is, your baby’s been moving from the very beginning — you just haven’t felt it.
First trimester movement: Weeks 1–12
If you have an ultrasound later in this trimester — say, around week 12 or so — the person doing the scan may point out that your baby is already rockin’ and rollin’ to the beat of their own drum.
But without an ultrasound — or if baby isn’t active during the scan, which is also quite normal — you’ll be none the wiser, because you likely won’t feel a thing.
While the first three months of pregnancy will come and go with little to no perceivable action in your womb, your baby will more than make up for the lack of movement in your second and third trimesters.
Second trimester movement: Weeks 13–26
This will be an exciting trimester! Morning sickness might start to fade (thank goodness!), you’ll have a growing baby bump, and those baby kicks will become a bit more prominent.
The first movements (known as quickening) start in the second trimester. At first, you might not even recognize what’s happening. Your baby is still small, so the kicks aren’t going to be strong. Instead, you may feel a strange sensation that you can only describe as a flutter.
Imagine a tiny fish swimming in your stomach (or a bit lower, really) — odd as it may sound, this is likely what those first movements will feel like. It can start as early as 14 weeks, but 18 weeks is more of the average.
If you’ve been pregnant before, and kind of know what to expect, you might detect movement sooner — maybe even as early as 13 weeks.
What’s interesting, though, is that while carrying twins or triplets means there’s less space in your womb, you’re not likely to feel movement any earlier when pregnant with multiples. (But you can expect a wild, acrobatic ride later in the pregnancy!)
Third trimester movement: Weeks 27–40
This brings us to the third trimester, also known as the home stretch. Things are getting a little cramped. And with less room to stretch, your baby’s kicks, nudges, and punches are unmistakable.
Your baby is also stronger in the third trimester, so don’t be surprised if some of those kicks hurt or cause you to flinch. (Your precious babe hurting you? Inconceivable!)
As baby takes up more space, you can also expect movement be less dramatic as you get closer to your delivery date, but it shouldn’t be less frequent or come to a halt.
The joy of feeling your baby move is heightened when you can share it with your partner, or friend, or family members.
You’re carrying the baby, so naturally you’re able to notice movement sooner than others. But in most cases, your partner should be able to detect movement a few weeks after you.
If your partner places their hand on your stomach, they may feel the baby move as early as week 20. As your baby becomes bigger and stronger, your partner (or others you allow) will not only feel kicks, but also see kicks.
Your baby may even begin to respond to familiar voices around week 25, so speaking to your baby could prompt a kick or two.
While some of those earlier movements may feel like a wave or a fish swimming in your belly, movement can also mimic feelings of gas or hunger pangs. So you may think that you’re hungry or having digestion problems.
It’s not until the feeling becomes consistent and stronger that you realize it’s actually your baby exploring the environment!
Sometimes, your baby moving can feel like little ticks in your belly. In all likelihood, your baby has begun hiccuping, which is completely harmless.
It’s also important to keep in mind that the frequency of movement will change at different stages of your pregnancy.
Just because your baby starts moving in the second trimester doesn’t mean that it’ll happen all day. In fact, inconsistent movement is perfectly normal in this trimester. So even if you don’t feel any movement one day, don’t go into panic mode.
Remember, your baby is still tiny. It’s unlikely that you’ll feel every flip or roll. It’s not until your baby becomes bigger that you’ll start to feel something everyday. You might even begin to notice regular patterns of movement.
Your baby may be more active in the mornings, and calmer in the afternoons and evenings, or vice versa. It really depends on their sleep cycle.
Also, your own movements may lull the baby you’re carrying to sleep. This is also why you may notice more activity when you’re lying down — just as you’re trying to sleep, your soon-to-be newest addition wakes up.
Toward the end of your third trimester, it’s also perfectly normal for movements to change slightly. This doesn’t mean that anything is wrong — it just means that your baby is running out of space to move.
Want to play a game with your baby?
As you enter the third trimester, your doctor may likely suggest kick counting as a fun and simple way to track your baby’s health during these final months.
The ideal is to count how many times your baby moves within a specific timeframe to get a baseline of what’s normal for them.
You’ll want to count kicks at the same time every day, if possible, and when your baby is the most active.
Sit with your feet up or lie on your side. Note the time on the clock, and then start counting the number of kicks, nudges, and punches you feel. Keep counting up to 10, and then write down how long it took to feel 10 movements.
It’s important that you do this every day, because a change in movement could indicate a problem. If it normally takes 45 minutes to count 10 kicks, and then one day it takes two hours to count 10 kicks, call your doctor.
To be abundantly clear, lack of movement doesn’t always indicate a problem. It could just mean that your baby is enjoying a nice long nap, or your baby’s in a position that makes it harder to feel movement.
You might also feel less movement (or feel those first kicks a bit later in your pregnancy) if you have an anterior placenta. This is perfectly normal.
And sometimes — like all of us — your baby needs a little snack to get going again. So eating something or drinking a glass of orange juice might encourage movement. All the same, your doctor can bring you in for monitoring.
You’re not likely to feel your baby move during true labor (and you’ll have a lot distracting you), but you may feel movement during Braxton-Hicks contractions.
These contractions happen during the third trimester, and it’s essentially your body’s way of preparing for labor and delivery. This is a tightening of your abdomen that comes and goes over a period of time.
Not only can you detect movement during these contractions, but your baby’s movements can even trigger Braxton-Hicks. Going for a walk or changing your position can help relieve these early contractions.
Feeling your baby move is one of the amazing joys of pregnancy, often allowing for an intense bond. So it’s pretty natural to feel worried if you think you haven’t felt movement often or early enough.
But some babies move more than others, and some pregnant women feel kicks sooner than others. Try not to worry. You’ll soon get a feel for your baby’s normal.
Call your doctor if you’re concerned about lack of movement or if you don’t feel 10 movements within a two-hour window in the third trimester.
Also, don’t hesitate to call your doctor or go to the hospital if you’re worried about your baby’s health, or if you can’t distinguish between Braxton-Hicks contractions and actual labor contractions.
Your doctor and clinic staff are your allies in this journey. You should never feel foolish for calling or going in — the precious cargo you’re carrying is worth checking on in the event of anything usual.
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