image001For most women, one of the biggest thrills of pregnancy is getting to feel your baby move around, hiccupping, kicking, wriggling, punching, and twisting. This is one of the best pieces of proof that a new and energetic life is growing inside of you.

Despite the joy of feeling your baby move during pregnancy, it can also lead to many questions. Many moms wonder if their baby is kicking the normal amount or too much or too little? Some moms even feel as if their babies have four legs because of all of the kicking. Read on to learn all about fetal movement during pregnancy.

When Can You First Feel Fetal Movement?

Most women won’t feel their baby start to kick until they are 16 to 22 weeks along. Despite this, most babies start actually moving between 7 and 8 weeks and you can sometimes see this movement on an ultrasound.

Moms who have given birth before are more likely to notice “quickening” (the first subtle kicks) sooner than a new mom. These experienced moms are also better at distinguishing baby kicks from other rumblings like gas.

Sometimes build also affects how well you can distinguish between feelings and movements. As a general rule, thinner women will notice movement more frequently and earlier than those who have a bit extra weight.

What Does Fetal Movement Feel Like?

The description of fetal movement can vary with some women saying it is like butterflies fluttering, goldfish swimming, or popcorn popping. The very first gentle swishes or taps tend to get mistaken for hunger pains or gas. Over time, however, you start to be able to distinguish between these feelings and your baby movement. It is easier to feel the early movements if you are sitting or lying and relaxing.

What Affects Fetal Movement?

Some women notice their babies moving after they eat or drink caffeine. Moms-to-be tend to notice less movement when they are active (as in exercising) and obese women may feel fewer movements as well. Some medications will change the way your baby moves so always let your doctor know which medications you are on.

What Fetal Movements Are Normal?

There are four states of fetal activity ranging from least all the way to most active. When your unborn baby is in quiet sleep, he might stay still for two hours. In active sleep he will move, roll, or kick often. The quiet awake state might only mean moving his eyes while the active awake state means strong rolls and kicks.

How Often do You Feel Fetal Movement?

In the beginning, when you notice kicks they will be infrequent and have large gaps in time between them. It is common to feel multiple movements one day then none for several more days. At this point your baby’s movements still aren’t strong enough for you to feel. Later on during the second trimester, however, the kicks will get more regular and stronger.

You should never be concerned if your baby kicks more or less than those of other pregnant women. Each baby is completely different so there is no need to worry unless your baby’s usual activity decreases.

Timeline for Fetal Movement

Although all babies are different, this general guide indicates some possible movements:

Week 12: Your baby will start moving but in most cases you won’t notice due to his small size.

Week 16: Some women start noticing small butterfly-like flutters at this point. It may be because of the baby moving but sometimes is just gas.

Week 20: This is when you can actually feel your child’s very first movements which are referred to as “quickening.”

Week 24: Your baby’s movements are a bit more established and you may even notice twitches when he hiccups.

Week 28: Your baby moves more frequently and some of his jabs or kicks can actually take away your breath briefly.

Week 36: Movements will start to slow down because your uterus is crowded as your baby grows more.

In the following video, a mom-to-be shares how she feels with fetal movement at 35 weeks:

How to Keep Track of Fetal Movement

When you are at the point where you regularly feeling kicking, pay a bit of attention to them so you can let your doctor know if there is a decrease in the amount of activity your baby is showing. In some cases a decrease in movement can indicate an issue so you will need a nonstress test or biophysical profile as well as an ultrasound to measure amniotic fluid.

Once you reach the third trimester, some doctors recommend doing kick counts at certain times throughout the day. There are multiple different methods you can try to do this but one of the common options involves picking a time of the day when your baby is usually active. (Keep in mind that you should ideally do the count at about the same time every day). Lie down on your side or sit quietly to avoid distraction and time the amount of time that passes before you feel ten different movements. Anything counts including whole body movements, punches, and kicks. If you wait two hours and still don’t notice ten movements, contact your doctor.

When to See a Doctor

You should contact your doctor if the following situations occur:

  • You have to wait longer than normal to feel 10 fetal movements
  • You don’t feel ten movements within two hours
  • Your skin surrounding your eyes, feet and hands is swollen more than normal
  • You have a headache for 24 hours or more
  • There are tiny red dots on your skin
  • Your belly feels tender when pressed
  • You have any concerns or questions about your care or condition

In some cases, you should seek immediate care and these include:

  • You don’t notice fetal movement for twelve hours
  • There is constant pain or cramping in your abdomen
  • There is heavy bleeding coming from the vagina
  • You have a headache that is so severe you can’t see clearly
  • You are vomiting or having problems breathing
  • You experience a seizure