Full disclosure: I hardly remember feeling my baby kicking in my womb, not until I was seven or eight months pregnant. That was the time when he would really move around in my tummy actively. Unaware of the implications of such "inactivity", I wouldn't say I was worried at the time, but in hindsight (and with what I know now), I’m thankful that everything went well.
Today, pregnant women are more aware of their bodies. Baby's kicks is one of the ways to tell if the baby is healthy and developing inside you as he or she should be -- and there are apps that can help monitor them. It’s crucial that a pregnant mom takes time to monitor her baby’s movements at key moments within the day. According to a small-scale survey of pregnant moms in the U.K., over half of the women who had a stillbirth noticed that their baby's movement had slowed down or had stopped, but did not tell their doctor.
Should you, preggy mom, be worried, then? Relax, and play it by ear, er... or kick. Here are some vital pieces of information to keep in mind:
When should you first feel your baby move? You should start feeling your baby kick between 16 and 24 weeks into the pregnancy, but most women feel it only between 18 and 20 weeks. It may not come as a full kick in your gut, but as a flutter, a bubble burst, a swish, or a roll. If it's your first pregnancy, you may become aware of baby's movements by the time you are 20 weeks pregnant. If you have been pregnant before, you may feel your baby move as early as 16 weeks. Sometimes the position of your placenta, if it's located in front of your tummy, can cushion your baby's movements, so you don't feel it as much.
Jane Brewin, chief executive officer of U.K. charity Tommy's, said in a press release for the baby kicks awareness and empowerment campaign Movements Matter that it's not true that babies move less as you near your due date. Baby's movements should get more frequent and stronger as the pregnancy progresses, and "a woman should feel [her] baby move right up to the time of labor and during labor, too," she says. When you're near the end of your pregnancy, your baby's movements may vary, as he or she has less space to move around in, but you should still feel him moving.
How many times should you feel your baby kick? There is no set number of times. Each baby will have his own pattern which will be evident at the 28th to 32nd week of pregnancy. You have to be consistent in monitoring your baby’s movements in the day to notice your baby’s pattern. Normally, babies would kick when you're getting settled at night or when you change positions, after you've had a meal or snack, or when you're nervous.
According to U.K. non-profit organization Kicks Count, it's a misconception that you should be feeling 10 kicks over a set period, and it's no longer recommended as all babies are different, as each pregnancy is. "Studies have shown movements can vary from four to over 100 every hour, so giving a set number would therefore be irrelevant for most of the population," Elizabeth Hutton, CEO of Kicks Count told The Huffington Post.
When should you be alarmed about your baby's reduced fetal movement? At the 28th week, when your baby should have settled into his own kick pattern, you should start actively monitoring your baby's kicks at same periods within the day. In doing so, you should be able to tell if your baby’s movements are out of the ordinary. While the 10-kick count rule is now debunked, this is why it's still important to take a moment and feel your baby's movements.
"The safest and most reliable method of monitoring a baby’s movements is to encourage the mum to get to know her baby’s own pattern of movement. She will then be able to determine if her baby has a period of reduced or increased fetal movement," Hutton explains. Know your baby and trust your instincts.
Should you do anything to “encourage” your baby move? While you can actually play a game with your baby by gently pressing on your tummy (and your little one might reply by pulling back a limb or push it out again), doctors advise against making your baby move. Don't eat or drink plenty or do anything out of the ordinary just to make your baby move. Using at-home Doppler -- it monitors heartbeat, not movement -- may be unreliable.
There’s only one thing to do when you feel your baby is not moving as much as he should: Call your doctor. It is crucial that women and their partners are informed and feel empowered when it comes to monitoring their baby’s movement, and thus, should not hesitate to act immediately if they feel something is amiss. It could prove to be helpful in ensuring your child’s health.