Hurray, you’ve started to feeling those flutters – or maybe even little kicks – made by your growing baby as they move about in your womb! And you may have heard or read about keeping track of how many 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?
“Each baby will develop their own individual pattern and some are just more active than others,” says Nikki Khan, senior midwife at St George’s University Hospital, London. “There’s no ‘correct’ frequency, as it’s different for every woman. But your baby will develop a ‘routine’ and it’s good to get to know what’s normal for your baby.”
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 now because 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 move 100 times an hour – this has practice been discontinued.
It’s also really hard to compare what pregnant women call a baby movement: it could really vary, with some women ‘counting’ every tiny flutter and others maybe not noticing much beyond the really big kicks.
So, now it’s all about staying in tune with your baby’s regular movements. The idea is to get to know your baby’s kicking habits and become aware of how active your baby is – so that, if anything changes away from that norm, you can ask your midwife to check it out.
Baby kick watch: week by week
OK, so we know that every baby is different but, despite that there are certain common patterns to baby movements that happen during your 2nd and 3rd trimester. For example, you’ll probably notice that your baby’s movements will increase until you’re 32 weeks pregnant and then, from then on, keep pretty much to the same frequency until you give birth.
We asked MadeForMum’s expert midwife Anne Richley 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 in which you will first feel that 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 gas 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 will start to take shape. If you’re busy working or looking after other children, you may not be aware of your baby’s smaller actions and, as like as not, you’ll find that, just when you start falling asleep, your baby starts to get lively! If you feel regular, jerky movements right about now, that could all be down to your baby having hiccups. Hiccups can last for 30 minutes at a time and are completely normal and won’t harm your baby. They shouldn’t be counted as movements however. The same goes for if your baby jumps after they hear a loud sound.
- 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.
- 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 (find out how to run the safest temperature for your bath)
- 32 weeks
Your baby will become really active now, changing position constantly, stretching their arms and somersaulting. In fact, your womb’s a bit like 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 start to move into a head-down position from 36 weeks, 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 you’re likely to feel a more 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 – so don’t be disheartened by the mum who’s having her 3rd and has been feeling movements since week 16.
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 – spine-side – 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, so 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?
Babies can be active throughout the day and night, says Anne Richley, but they won’t be continuously active so don’t be worried if your baby has a rest for while. Babies don’t always move, especially when they are sleeping.
Babies can sleep for anything from 20 minutes to 40 minutes, and sometimes they can even have a longer nap of anything up to 90 minutes.
You might 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. Again, every pregnancy is different.
“I think it was around the 23-week mark when my baby got really active so that my husband could start feeling the kicks,” says Lucy_Spoon on our MadeForMums Chat forum. “My baby usually goes quiet if her Daddy touches my belly (might be a good sign that he’s going to be some sort of baby whisperer). Now that I am 34 weeks, when I’m giving hubby a hug in bed she kicks his back!”
What will make my baby move more?
You can probably second-guess half of the things that will make a baby move before you even experience it, such as:
- hot, cold or fizzy drinks
- sugary food
What will make my baby move less?
Some things that are likely to make your baby move less include:
- Taking painkillers
- Drinking alcohol
”Also, if you haven’t had much to eat or drink that day, your baby may become lethargic and move less,” says Nikki Khan, “so have a light, nutritious snack and see if that helps.
“Sometimes, we’re so busy, we’re simply not concentrating on our baby and miss regular movements that way. If you’re able to, take some quiet time to relax, and reconnect with your baby, focusing on feeling her move.
“A glass of ice-cold water will often get her moving – it’s thought that your baby can feel the change in temperature and will try to move away from it. If you’re at all worried, trust your instincts and call your midwife. She can have a listen and monitor you properly to put your mind at rest.”
When should I seek medical advice?
“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 Anne Richley. “In most cases, your baby will be moving but you’re just not aware of it. Alternatively your baby might have altered positions, meaning you don’t feel pushes or turning in such a defined way.
“Towards the end of your pregnancy, your baby has less room in which to do huge kicks or shoves, but you should still feel the same amount of moving, even it’s slightly less strong, or feels different.
“Sometimes a significant reduction in movements can show that your baby is becoming unhappy in the womb, so it’s always important that you speak to a midwife, who can arrange for you to be seen quickly.”
About our expert midwives Anne Richley and Nikki Khan
- Anne is a midwife with 22 years’ experience. She is currently Matron for Community Midwifery Service at Northampton General Hospital NHS Trust. She has written a number of books on pregnancy and birth, including Your Baby’s First Yearand Labour & Birth.
- Nikki is passionate about midwifery care and qualified as a midwife in 1989. She has practised extensively as a Senior Midwife in the NHS and the private sector. She currently works at St George’s University Hospitals NHS Trust and also acts as an Expert Midwifery Witness.