When will I first feel my baby move?
When should you expect to feel your baby kick for the first time in pregnancy and what will it be like? With the help our our expert Midwife Pip, we tell you what to expect and when, why you should get to know your baby's moments – and when you partner will be able to feel them, too
Feeling your baby move for the first time is a real milestone moment in your pregnancy. The only trouble is, the first flutters of movement are often so faint, it can be hard to be sure if you've felt anything or not.
Here, with the help of Midwife Pip, a practising NHS midwife and expert antenatal and postnatal educator, is your guide to what to expect when it comes to those first baby movements: how exactly they'll feel, at what week of pregnancy you're likely to feel them, how often you'll feel them – and what to do if you don't think you can feel them at all...
So, when should I start to feel my baby move?
The exact timing of those first movements varies from baby to baby – but there's a definite first-movement window between about 16 weeks and 24 weeks of pregnancy.
"Most women start to feel their baby moving between 18 and 20 weeks," says Midwife Pip. "Saying that, if it's your second or third baby, you may start feeling movements earlier – at around 15 weeks – and it's quite normal to be past the 20-week mark before you feel anything, too.”
So it's quite possible to have had your 20-week scan and to have seen your baby moving around on the ultrasound monitor but not to have actually felt those movements yet yourself.
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Why this variation in the timing of those first movements? Sometimes it's down to the position of your placenta (which your baby is attached to, via the umbilical cord, in your womb). If you have an anterior placenta, positioned at the front (belly-side) wall of your womb, it may be cushioning your baby's movements, so muffling any feelings you could get until your baby's kicking more strongly.
What exactly will my baby's movements feel like?
Like little flutters or taps. "Your baby’s earliest movements can be very small and slight and easily confused for wind or your hungry tummy gurgling," says Midwife Pip.
"They used to be called 'quickenings' – which means the first stirrings of life – and when you feel them, you'll understand why.
"Some women report early movements feel like butterflies or a little bubbling fish. And they are easily missed if you are busy or out and about; often you can only feel them when you are sitting quietly."
This was certainly true for Angel-Delightx on our MadeForMums Chat forum:
I'm 17 weeks now and I've started feeling movements. I wasn't sure if it was wind at first. It feels like bubbling to me. It usually happens at night when I'm lying on the sofa
Over time, the not-quite-sure-if-it's-real flutterings will change into much more recognisable kicks. "As your baby grows," says Midwife Pip, "their movements become bigger and more pronounced – and therefore much less easy to miss!"
When will my partner be able to feel my baby move?
Again, this varies from pregnancy to pregnancy but, according to the mums-to-be on our MadeForMums Chat forum and in our Top Testers Club, a partner can often feel your baby moving a couple of weeks after you start to feel movements yourself.
But at the beginning, when the movements are small, your partner may not be able to feel much, if anything. And sometimes, it will seem as though the movements stop the moment they put their hand on your belly!
I'm just coming up to 24 weeks and my other half can feel them but not all the time – only if it's a it's a really strong kick. Sometimes, I put my phone or the TV remote on my belly, so he can see the movement instead. Makes me feel like I'm not going crazy!
How regularly should I feel my baby move?
There's no 'correct' number of time for your baby to move every day. It's different for every pregnancy.
You may have heard that you should count 10 baby kicks a day but that's now very much not the official advice.
"Mums-to-be used to be asked to keep a record of the number of movements their baby made each day," says Midwife Pip, "but we now know that this is not an accurate way to monitor your baby's wellbeing as the number will vary for every baby,.
"The recommended way to monitor movements is to get to know your baby’s normal pattern or routine of movements and to monitor that instead. If there's any change to their normal pattern, then you should call your midwife or local hospital without delay – even if it is in the middle of the night.
"A reduction in movements or a pattern change can be your baby signalling they are unwell and the sooner that is picked up – or you are reassured that all is in fact fine – the better."
Is there anything I can do to encourage my baby to move?
No, your baby will start moving when they're good and ready!
But, if you've felt movements before and think your baby is moving less, you can try lying still for 15 minutes, ideally on your left side, and really focusing on being aware of your bump.
"Ensuring that you have eaten and drunk enough is also important," says Midwife Pip, "as low sugar levels or dehydration can also impact your baby's movement."
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.
Why are my baby's movements important?
Feeling your baby move is one of the ways you know your baby is fine. If your baby’s movement pattern changes, it may possibly indicate that something isn't right. That's why your midwife will encourage you to to build up a picture of your baby's regular movements.
”Think about a time when you have been unwell," says midwife Pip. "You wouldn't have been jumping and running about then; you were probably snuggled up on the sofa or in bed. It is a similar thing for your baby: if they are unwell, they will also conserve energy by moving less."
I’m not feeling anything at all. Do all pregnant women feel their baby kick?
Some pregnant women do not feel their baby kicking until later on in their pregnancy – and that's usually due to the position of the placenta.
“If your placenta is at the front of your bump– what’s known as an anterior placenta," says midwife Pip, "this may cushion your baby's movements (as mentioned above) so that you don’t feel them until later on in your pregnancy. Even then, some women may not feel them very strongly at all.
If you have anterior placenta, your sonographer will pick it up at your 20-week pregnancy scan. It does mean that monitoring baby movements will more tricky but you should still be always get checked over if you are concerned about reduced movements. "Don't assume it is the position of your placenta," says midwife Pip.
Kicks Count, the UK charity that aims to inform mums-to-be about the importance of their baby's movements, advises that – regardless of the position of your placenta – if you haven’t felt your baby kick by week 24 of your pregnancy, you should contact your midwife, who will probably arrange a scan for you.
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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