Dr. Seema Jain

Can you feel the baby moving yet? It’s a question most women will hear, when they’ve only just announced their pregnancy! 

So, when exactly does the baby start moving?

Most women are first aware about their baby's movement when 18-20 weeks pregnant.   If it is your first pregnancy you may not become aware of movements until 20 weeks. These first fetal movements are called QUICKENING, often described as FLUTTERS. It may be difficult initially, if it is ‘gas or baby’s movements’ but soon would begin to notice a pattern.
 Remember each woman and each pregnancy is different so, you may not feel movements as early as another woman.

What are the normal movements for an unborn baby in pregnancy?

There is no definite set pattern of what is normal for an unborn baby, so it is important to get to know your baby’s individual pattern.
As the baby grows, both the number and type of movements would change along with baby’s activity pattern. Usually afternoon and evening periods are the time of peak activity for your baby.  Over 24 hours, sleep periods last between 20 and 40 min rarely upto 90 min. Baby will usually not move during these sleep periods.
The number of movements tends to increase until 32 weeks of pregnancy and then stay about the same although type of movements may change nearer to your due date. Often if you are busy you may not notice all the movements. However it is important that you continue to feel your baby moves right up to the time of labour.

Why are baby’s movements important?

If you notice your baby is moving less than usual or there is a change in the pattern of movements, it may be the first sign that baby is unwell. Therefore it is essential that you contact your doctor immediately to assess baby’s wellbeing. 

How many movements are enough?

There is no specific number of movements which is normal. A reduction or a change in pattern of movements is though important. If you are unsure whether or not your baby’s movements are reduced, you should lie down on your left side and focus on your baby’s movements for the next 2 hours. If you feel 8-10 separate movements during these 2hours, it is reassuring.

How can you prompt baby’s movements?

 Things that may prompt your baby to kick are eating or drinking certain food items like cold, hot or fizzy drinks and sugary food like chocolate. Other prompts may be lying on your left side, changing position or rubbing your belly.

What should you do if you feel baby’s movements are reduced or changed?
Always seek professional help immediately. Never go to sleep ignoring your baby's movements. You can try things that prompt movements and if still you fail to perceive contact your doctor immediately. Do not rely on any home kits you may have for listening to your baby’s heartbeat. Subsequent care will depend on your stage of pregnancy and associated risk factors.
Generally you will have a full antenatal check-up, including checking your baby’s heartbeat.

If you are over 28 weeks depending on available facilities your baby’s heart rate will be monitored for his/her wellbeing by a machine called cardiotochogram (CTG) usually for 20 minutes. Ultrasound may be arranged if there are any concerns in CTG or if there are other risk factors. You will usually be able to go home once above tests are normal.

What should I do if I find my baby’s movements are Reduced again?
When you go home you will be advised to keep an eye on your baby’s movements and, should your baby have another episode of reduced movements, you must again contact your doctor. Never hesitate to contact for advice, no matter how many times this happen.
‘The bottom line is that you should trust your instincts’. You’ve carried this baby for months now and know his patterns and peculiarities better than anyone. If you feel something is wrong, tell your doctor and get him/her checked.

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