How often should I feel my baby move – week by week?
Should your baby kick more than 10 times a day? What if they don't? Will they kick more the closer you get to your due date – or less? With the help our our expert Midwife Pip, we tell you what how many baby movements to expect in each week of your pregnancy, how they change, and what to do if you're worried about reduced movement
Hurray, you've started to feeling little flutters – or maybe even little kicks – as your growing baby moves about in your womb! You may have heard or read about keeping track of these movements you're feeling. But why is this important? How many movements should you expect to feel each day? And does that change as your due date gets closer?
“There is no correct kick pattern for a baby to have," says Midwife Pip, a practising NHS midwife and expert antenatal and postnatal educator. "Every mother and baby are unique, and your baby’s pattern will be different to another baby’s.
"What is really important is to get to know your baby and their normal pattern so you can quickly notice any changes."
Aren't you supposed to count 10 kicks per day?
No, this is something pregnant women used to be told (there was a very successful 'Count to 10' programme that was widely endorsed by midwives). But this practice has been discontinued now that it's known how very different one baby's movements can be from another's: some babies may move 4 times an hour, for example, while others may move 100 times an hour.
It's also really hard to compare what pregnant women would count as a baby movement: it can really vary, from woman to woman and from day to day (depending on what else might be distracting your attention), with some women being alert to every tiny flutter and others maybe not noticing much beyond the really big kicks.
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"Counting up to 10 kicks a day is no longer recognised as the safest way to monitor your baby’s movements," says Midwife Pip. "Instead we recommend recognising your baby's normal pattern and getting checked over if there's any change from this pattern."
Baby kick watch: what movements to expect, week by week
OK, so the advice now is all about staying in tune with your baby's regular movements – so that, if anything changes away from that norm, you can ask your midwife to check it out.
But it's also worth knowing that – even allowing for different rates of movement from one baby to another – there are certain common movement patterns that all babies tend to follow. You'll probably notice, for example, that your baby's movements will steadily increase until you're 32 weeks pregnant and then keep pretty much to the same frequency until you give birth.
We asked Midwife Pip to outline what to expect:
- 8 to 12 weeks
You won't be able to feel anything yet but your baby is regularly moving around from about 8 weeks of pregnancy. Your baby's brain is sending messages to growing muscles, telling them to work, which in turn helps your baby to grow. Your baby is surrounded by cushioning amniotic fluid, acting as protection from any bumps and pressure.
- 13 to 15 weeks
Some pregnant women, especially if those who've had a baby before, can start to feel slight movements at the very beginning of the 2nd trimester. However, this is very rare.
- 16 to 24 weeks
This is typically the time period during which you first feel your baby moving – and if it's your 1st baby, it's more likely to happen after 20 weeks than before. You might only feel a little flutter – also known as quickening – as your baby is still tiny. It can be so slight, you might put it down to wind or indigestion. Whenever it happens, it's completely normal to then have a few days when you don't feel anything at all.
- 24 to 28 weeks
This is when your baby's noticeable movement patterns start to take shape. If you're busy working or looking after other children, you may not be aware of your baby's smaller movements but when you lie down – and often just when you start falling asleep – you'll probably feel the movements more.
If you feel a series of regular jerky or pulsing movements over a few minutes, these could be hiccups, rather than kicks. No one's entirely sure why babies get hiccups in the womb but it's considered quite normal and not in the least bit harmful to your baby. They shouldn't be counted as movements, though.
You may also feel your baby 'jump', if there's a very loud sound: this doesn't count as a movement, either.
If your baby's pattern doesn't become clear exactly at 24 weeks, don't panic. As long as your baby is moving, that's fine. You might find your baby develops a more regular pattern closer to 28 weeks.
- 28 weeks
You may find your baby has developed a more regular pattern and you should be able to feel about 10 movements in a 12-hour period – but some of those may come very close together. Don't worry if your baby is quieter: just start familiarising yourself with what your baby likes to do.
From about 26 weeks, I've had a very active little boy in there and it's taken me a while to get into his pattern of moving and sleeping. He had a very active day yesterday, for example, so he will be quieter today
- 29 to 31 weeks
This is what your partner may have been waiting for: the grand reveal! Around this time you may be able to see your baby's movements from the outside, when the odd elbow or foot pushes out against your belly. One of the best places to spot your baby moving is in the bath.
Since 28 weeks, it's been much more regular. Not so much a pattern but I feel my baby most evenings. Now it's fewer kicks but more general movement. I can see bits of my belly expand when my baby moves!
- 32 weeks
Your baby will become really active now, changing position constantly, stretching their arms and somersaulting. It can feel as if they're treating your womb as a bit of a playground! This active phase will continue up until birth. There will still be a pattern to it. If you notice a reduction in your baby movements, talk to your doctor or midwife.
- 36 weeks
After those weeks of tumbling and pushing around, most babies will now start to move into a head-down position, ready for the birth. As your baby gets into this position, you may feel gentle jabs from their arms and legs. If you've had several babies before, will may find that your baby’s in what's known as an 'unstable lie', where your baby flits between being head-down (cephalic), sideways (transverse) or bottom-first (breech). Your baby can do this several times a day, although this is extremely rare with a 1st baby.
- 36 to 40 weeks
Your baby won’t be able to move so much now and what you're most likely to feel is a persistent kick underneath the ribs. The movements might have changed but the frequency should remain the same. If you notice any change, speak to your midwife.
What if I'm past 20 weeks pregnant and I can't feel any kicks?
Most pregnant women will have felt some flutterings by the 24th week of pregnancy.
It's worth knowing that first-time mums-to-be tend to feel movements later on in pregnancy than women who've had babies before.
Also, if you have an anterior placenta (where your baby's placenta is attached to the front – tummy-side – wall of your uterus, rather than the back or top or side), you may feel fluttering a few weeks later than the average pregnant woman does, because the placenta is acting as a kind of cushion between your baby and belly, making movements harder to feel.
If you haven't felt any movements at all by 25 weeks, though, do contact your midwife.
Are there certain times of the day when I should feel my baby move?
Afternoons and evenings are often times of peak activity but babies can be active at any time of the the day and night, says midwife Pip.
Your baby won't be continuously active, though. They will stop for a rest – or sleep – periods of time. As a rough guide, babies often sleep for 20 to 40 minutes at a time, But sometimes, they can even have a longer nap of anything up to 90 minutes.
You may also find that your baby's very active at night and in the morning, but you don't feel a huge amount during the course of the day.
This is very normal as babies become very used to noise and your activity outside the womb, and they often move more when you stop. Think about how we walk around rocking a baby to sleep for comfort: it's the same thing when your baby's in your uterus. So when you sit down and rest, your baby might wake up as the 'rocking' stops.
When will my partner be able to feel my baby kick?
Your partner will often be able to feel your baby a few weeks after you feel the first kicks. But, again, every pregnancy is different.
"After 10 minutes of waiting hand on tummy, our baby kicked Daddy!" says flowerlands on our MadeForMums Chat forum, "I am 23 weeks and I keep telling OH about all the kicking and hiccups but he could not feel anything. But the kick last night was really strong. My hubby was over the moon and got really tearful, bless him."
What may make my baby move more?
There are various foods you eat and drinks you can drink that can make your baby more active. You can probably second-guess what they are – because they're the things that generally give us a bit of a jolt of energy:
- Hot, cold or fizzy drinks
- Caffeinated drinks
- Sugary food
What will make my baby move less?
There are some medications we can take and lifestyle choice we can make that are likely to make your baby less active in your womb. They include:
What safe and healthy things can I do if I'm worried about my baby moving less?
Sometimes, life can get so busy, you can miss movements – and then worry your baby's normal pattern has changed. So, the first thing to do is to take some quiet time to relax and reconnect with your baby, focusing in on the movement they're making.
It's also a good idea to have something to eat. "If you haven’t had much to eat or drink that day, your baby may become lethargic and move less," says Midwife Pip, "so have a light, nutritious snack and a drink of water and see if that helps."
If you're at all worried, trust your instincts and call your midwife. Do not rely on a home doppler kit, or any other home heartbeat-listening kit, to check your baby's heartbeat yourself.
When should I seek medical advice about my baby's movements?
"If you're concerned that your baby's moving less than previously, you should contact your midwife who'll advise you to have your baby's heartbeat monitored to check everything’s OK," says Midwife Pip. "Don't wait till the next day, especially if you are over 28 weeks' pregnant.
"In most cases, your baby will be moving but you're just not aware of it. Or your baby could have altered positions, meaning you don't feel pushes or turning in such a defined way. Most women who experience an episode of reduction in their baby’s movements have a straightforward pregnancy and go on to have a healthy baby.
"Sometimes, however, a significant reduction in movements can be a sign that your baby is becoming unhappy in the womb and follow-up tests and scans may suggest it's safer for your baby to be born as soon as possible. So it's always important that you speak to a midwife, who can arrange for you to be seen quickly."
About our expert midwife Midwife Pip
Pip runs online antenatal and postnatal courses and believes passionately that, with the right support and with honest and evidence-based information, all births should be positive. You can find her on Instagram @midwife_pip.
Additional studies and references used in this article:
- Your baby's movements in pregnancy – patient information leaflet. Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
- Your baby's movements NHS Online
- Baby movements in pregnancy Tommy's
- Fetal movement. Huecker et al. National Library of Medicine. StatPearls. Feb 5 2023
- Reduced fatal movement (RFM) in pregnancy guidelines. NHS England. Greater Manchester and Eastern Cheshire Strategic Clinical Networks
Pic: Getty Images
Helen is author of the classic advice book Parenting for Dummies and a mum of 3. Before joining MadeForMums, she was Head of Community at Mumsnet and also the Consumer Editor of Mother & Baby.
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