How to Monitor Your Baby’s Movements

Feeling your unborn little one wiggle and kick is one of the sweetest parts of pregnancy. Well, except for when they kick your bladder or ribs in the middle of the night. Monitoring your baby’s movements in the womb can be a way to bond during pregnancy. It’s also a way to keep an eye on your developing baby’s health.

When Will I Feel Movement?

Quickening, or the first few movements you can feel when the baby is in utero, typically happens between weeks 16 and 25 of your pregnancy. Several factors can influence when you first feel a flutter or kick. First-time parents may take longer to feel first movements since parents of other kids know what sensations to feel for. Factors like your weight and where the placenta has attached on your uterus may also influence how early you feel the first movement.

Many expectant parents will notice that they feel movement at similar times each day (my baby kicked at 5:30 pm, like clockwork). Generally, you don’t need to worry if you’re not feeling a lot of activity. Fetuses spend most of their time sleeping. A common trick is to drink a glass of orange juice and sit quietly for about 20 minutes. The sugar kick may rouse the baby to motion, and you’ll be still enough to feel it.

How Does Counting Kicks Work?

Your OB-GYN or doctor may advise you to count kicks. Monitoring movements can catch a potential problem early, so it’s a good habit to practice. Fortunately, you don’t need to log every flutter! Here’s how to monitor your baby’s kicks:

  1. Monitor movements at the same time each day.
  2. Pick a time your baby is typically active, often after you’ve had a meal or snack.
  3. Sit or lie down in a comfortable position (but not so comfortable that you drift off!).
  4. Count each movement you feel: flutters, kicks, punches, jabs, and rolls all count.
  5. Do not include hiccups as movements.
  6. Log how long it took to record ten movements.

Over time, you’ll probably develop an idea of how long it normally takes to reach ten movements. Every baby is different, so some parents may only need 15 minutes to count kicks, while others take an hour or more.

Even if your baby is active throughout the day, designating a particular time to count kicks can be useful. You want to be able to recognize patterns of typical activity for your little one. Consistent information makes this easier.

Contact your medical provider if it takes longer than two hours to record ten movements, as this could signal a problem. You should also call if your baby’s movements change dramatically (say, from 20 minutes to an hour), even if it doesn’t cross the two-hour mark. An occasional variance is okay–we all have off days!–but several days of decreased activity can be a sign of a problem.

What About Using a Home Doppler to Monitor My Baby?

Tech-loving parents-to-be may enjoy using a Doppler device to monitor their baby at home. Much like in your doctor’s office, you’d use gel and an electronic wand to listen to your baby’s heartbeat.

The downside to relying on a Doppler is that heart rate changes would likely happen later than activity changes if your developing baby were in distress. In this case, a low-tech form of tracking movements can be more helpful. By the time the heart rate slows or stops, an issue could have reached emergency levels, and it may be difficult to intervene in time. As a bonus, counting kicks is free. It’s better to call your doctor if fetal activity seems off, even if the Doppler results seem fine.

Jessica Sillers
Jessica Sillers is a parenting and finance writer whose work has been featured in Pregnancy & Newborn, Headspace, and more. As a new mom herself, she’s passionate about helping other parents find the community and support they need. When she’s not writing, she loves spending time with her family, reading, and hiking.

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