Regular kicks, twists, punches, and cartwheels from your baby are common and important to be aware of. Some days, you may feel like you’re carrying an Olympic gymnast and others you may feel like you are carrying a leisurely swimmer! Now is the time to become familiar with your baby’s movements because those movements can help indicate different stages of your pregnancy and your baby's health.
If you have friends who are pregnant or who recently had a baby, it can even be fun to talk about your babies' moves and dances. Just remember, every pregnancy is different and every baby is unique, so each baby will dance inside their mom differently.
Why Do Babies Move in the Womb?
We all need exercise and your little one is no different! Here are a few reasons why it is imperative to be familiar with your baby's movements:
Your tiny dancer might move as a response to stimuli such as your voice, exercise, or a spike or drop in your blood sugar.
As your baby’s brain continues to develop, activity in the brain may also stimulate movement. If there is a lack of oxygen, that can negatively impact your baby and might result in a marked decrease or cessation of your baby's movements. A doctor should be consulted immediately if there is a marked decrease.
Your little one needs exercise, just like you, to help their bones and muscles develop
Remember, your baby needs sleep and rest to grow strong and healthy so there will be periods when there’s no movement. That’s common and nothing to be worried about. You should still work to familiarize yourself with your baby's patterns so you can recognize changes in how often he or she is active.
Baby Movement Milestones
Let’s talk about milestones. The following are common movement patterns you’ll probably notice as your pregnancy progresses:
At 8 Weeks
With a developing nervous system, and developed legs, fingers, toes, bones, and muscles your baby may begin to move, however you will not feel any movements until later into the pregnancy.
At 16 Weeks
First-time moms may not feel anything between 16 and 20 weeks but this is normal. If you have been pregnant previously, this is when you might begin to feel a periodic butterfly sensation.
At 24 Weeks
Your baby's movements will be more noticeable around 24 weeks. The movements will still be sporadic, but with less wiggle space, you will feel the cartwheels and kicks more. Your baby’s auditory system is now developed, so you can play music for your little one to dance to.
At 28 Weeks
This is the point when your doctor will likely suggest counting kicks. This is also the point when your little one begins dreaming as they experience REM sleep. REM stands for Rapid Eye Movement and this is the phase of sleep when most people experience dreams. If you experience phases of little movement, don’t worry your baby is just resting.
Your doctor may give you a chart to help you track your baby’s movements, but don’t stress so much over counting the kicks that you miss out on enjoying your baby’s movements. Remember this is a miracle that a tiny human is moving inside of you! Track how many movements you feel in a given period of time so you can be aware of dramatic changes that might indicate a red flag.
Once you notice a pattern, document the time of the first movement in your baby’s active session. Set a timer for two hours and within that time you can expect to feel at least 10 large movements.
Tip: Consult your doctor on whether or not they recommend counting kicks. Ask specifically if you have a high-risk condition that makes them recommend kick counts. A low risk pregnancy does not usually require specific kick counting rather it suggests a general awareness of your baby’s movements.
Decreased Fetal Movement
If this is your first pregnancy, you may not feel movement until closer to 25 weeks, but it’s important to be familiar with your baby’s patterns once they start moving around. Noticing a change in movement, which could be the result of a complication, can save your baby’s life. If you notice a decrease in movements or strength of kicks you should contact your OB/GYN or midwife right away. Abnormal movements may be the result of complications such as issues with the placenta, your uterus, or the umbilical cord.
Your doctor may perform a non-stress test which monitors the heart rate over a period of time, or a biophysical profile, which looks directly at movement and amniotic fluid levels with an ultrasound. If you are nervous, you can try some methods to get your little one moving: try eating or drinking something sweet or cold, go on a walk, gently push on your tummy to wake up your baby, or try talking to them—at this point they can recognize your voice.
Your own activity level has patterns, and may vary depending on the day. Remember that your activity level isn’t the same as your mom’s, neighbors', or friends', so your baby’s activity level is not going to be the exact same as another baby’s either.
Keep an eye on trends. If counting kicks causes too much anxiety, just look for patterns and count every once in a while. Make sure your baby is getting enough exercise to grow healthy and strong. If you notice a dramatic decline in movement or if you notice your baby is generally not moving a lot, call your doctor. Trust your gut and your maternal instincts.
Enjoy the miracle of feeling another human kick and dance inside your tummy! There’s nothing like it.