When Will I Feel My Baby Kicking During Pregnancy?

Baby Kicking

When I was around 6 months pregnant with my older daughter, my husband and I attended a matinee of the Broadway show “Bring in ’da Noise, Bring in ’da Funk.” That was nearly 20 years ago, but I still smile at the memory of how my baby seemed to turn somersaults and kick along with the beat of the percussion instruments and tap dancers onstage.

One of the great delights of pregnancy is feeling your baby’s in-utero acrobatics. If it’s your first pregnancy, you’ll probably feel the first fluttering movements at 16 to 22 weeks. If you’ve been pregnant before, you likely will recognize them even earlier. You might be surprised to learn that your baby’s movements can be seen on ultrasound as early as 10 weeks’ gestation.

A tumbling baby is a healthy baby. Fetal movements in the womb play an important role in the development of muscles and bones, not unlike what a good workout at the gym does for you.

That’s why you might grow concerned if your usually active fetus seems more sluggish than usual, especially in the third trimester. In fact, such a concern is a common reason for why pregnant women make an appointment to see their doctor or midwife. Because your baby doesn’t have as much elbow room as birth nears, he or she might kick less and roll more than in the second trimester.

Reduced fetal movements, or RFM, has been shown to occur in up to 15% of pregnancies. One recent study suggested that RFM is more likely to occur in first pregnancies than subsequent pregnancies, but that doesn’t mean it can’t occur in pregnant women who’ve previously delivered babies. If you think that your baby’s movements have decreased, you should tell your healthcare provider. He or she might ask you to do a “kick count” at home each day.

There are different ways to count kicks, and your doctor or midwife will tell you how to do it (there are even free apps for that, like this one). He or she might recommend that you count while lying on your left side, a position in which your fetus is likely to be more active. Ten movements—flutters and rolls as well as kicks—an hour is normal in the third trimester. Most of the time your baby will move that frequently in less than a half hour.

Don’t be alarmed if you don’t count 10 movements in an hour, though. Your baby might just be sleeping. Get something to eat or drink (you might have noticed that your baby becomes more active when you eat) and then try counting again the next hour.

But if you feel fewer than 10 movements in two hours during a time of day when your baby usually is most active, typically in the evening, you should seek immediate medical attention. The lack of movement could be a sign of potential problems with your pregnancy that could necessitate delivery of your baby.

Rita Rubin
An ob-gyn's daughter and the mother of two teenage daughters, Rita Rubin has covered medicine ever since earning a BSJ from Northwestern. Based in Washington, D.C., Rita has written for WebMD, JAMA, POZ, and NBCNews.com and previously worked for USA TODAY. She has won numerous awards for her stories and authored What If I Have a C-Section? Rita earned an MA in writing from Johns Hopkins and spent a year as a fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health. You can follow her on Twitter @RitaRubin.

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