Why Does My Baby Move More at Night in the Womb?

If you can feel your baby move, you might have noticed that movement more at night. But why is baby on this schedule? In this post, we’ll discuss why babies move at night in the womb and what impact that might have on you during pregnancy and after.

The Role of Your Physical Activity

 Baby resides in your uterus in a sac filled with amniotic fluid. This fluid, which by 20 weeks is all baby’s recycled urine, makes a lovely warm place for baby to hang out as they grow. As you move about your day, walking, climbing stairs, and perhaps exercising, your baby is gently jostled. These movements serve to essentially rock baby to sleep. Therefore, while you are up and active, baby is likely being lulled to sleep in the lovely float tank of your uterus. When you stop moving at night, though, baby wakes up and it’s party time.

Feeling Baby’s Movement

How much you can feel baby’s movement depends on several factors. First, baby’s size can affect how much movement you feel. When baby is little—before about 20 weeks—you likely won’t feel many kicks. But after baby has grown larger, there is a greater chance that you won’t be able to miss that foot to the ribs or bladder.

Placenta placement is another thing that might affect your ability to monitor baby’s activity. The placenta is a large organ that develops specifically to serve as a bridge between your body and baby’s body. If your placenta is anterior—that is, in the front of your uterus—you will likely feel less movement than if it is posterior, which means toward the back of your body and thus puts fewer layers in between baby’s movements and the front of your belly.

Regardless of how big baby is or where your placenta is located, you are more likely to notice movement at night when you are paying more attention. As you go to work or take care of older kids during the day, you might not have as much time to attend to what baby is doing inside your belly. Once you sit down at night, though, you may notice movement more.

Impact on You During Pregnancy

So what do baby’s nighttime antics mean for you during pregnancy? It depends. Some pregnant people have a really hard time sleeping while baby is enjoying rocketing around inside their womb after dark. But some people find it very reassuring to sit down and feel lots of movement at the end of the day. If you are someone who feels anxious about not feeling much movement throughout the day, if you can, sit or lie down and have a cold drink. This action will likely wake baby up and provide you with lots of comforting kicks.

What about after baby arrives?

The nightly wiggle habit that many babies develop in utero can also have an impact after baby is born. For instance, newborns often have their nights and days reversed, meaning that they like to sleep all day and are much more wakeful at night. In order to cope with this scenario, which can get old for new parents who are desperate to sleep, you can help your baby learn to distinguish day and night. During the day, expose baby to light, perhaps by taking them outside first thing in the morning for a quick stroll. Keep the lights on and noise levels normal while they nap during the day. In contrast, keep nights dark and as stimulation-free as possible. Change diapers quickly and in low light. Do your best to keep interactions calm and short. Baby will eventually figure it out.

The good news is that because baby is used to being soothed to sleep by the movement in utero, wearing baby in a baby carrier or rocking them will probably work really well to soothe them. Many a baby has refused to sleep in the early days except while being carried, and it’s all because they are used to mom’s comforting physical activity.

Abby Olena
Dr. Abby Olena has a PhD in Biological Sciences from Vanderbilt University. She lives with her husband and children in North Carolina, where she writes about science and parenting, produces a conversational podcast, and teaches prenatal yoga.

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