Fetal Movement and Why Pregnant Women Count Kicks

Pregnant women love feeling those baby kicks!

Have you ever felt your pocket during a run to see if your keys were there? Checked the cup holder while driving to make sure your phone was still resting in its usual spot? Double-checked the door to make sure it was still locked? Went back into the house after leaving to make sure the stove was off?

No, you’re not paranoid. You just wanted and needed a little extra confirmation that everything was as it should be. Those kicks are just another method of reassurance: “Yes, baby is still here and doing great.”

Here are the basics of fetal movement, and you’ll soon understand why we count those precious kicks.

10  Proof That’s Better Than Heartburn and Morning Sickness

Sure, you saw the plus sign on the stick…your doctor has told you that you’re pregnant. Maybe you’ve even struggled with side effects.

But the kicks are a different, wonderful story. The kicks are little messages from your little baby, saying, “Hey, I’m here, and I’m real. I’m coming soon!”

Worried it’s gas? Veteran moms can tell the difference between kicks and gas - lucky them. Don’t worry - over time, you’ll soon be able to figure out the difference too!

Women typically start feeling kicks between 16 and 25 weeks. Sometimes these kicks get confused for other things, but once you know that it's your baby kicking and moving, you'll instantly be able to identify the baby's movement from other types of feelings.

The interesting thing is that babies start moving much earlier than you're able to feel. Your fetus is able to move around as early as 6-8 weeks old. The only reason you haven't felt it is the size of your baby is too small for you to notice the movement going on inside of you.

9 The Basics: What Do Kicks Feel Like?

Different women say different things, but many think it feels like butterflies, while other women say it feels like it’s goldfish swimming around or popcorn being popped. Basically, it feels like something is truly happening inside! It’s definitely not your lunch digesting!

Are you not sure what to do? Relax. Put your hand on your belly. You can interpret for yourself, but as one of my friends said during her pregnancy, “It feels like love. It feels like he is saying, ‘I love you, Mama.’” Perhaps you can predict the future athleticism of your baby? Do you have a gymnast-to-be?

The early movements you feel during the 16-20 weeks are referred to as the quickening. More deliberate movements will be felt later into your pregnancy, around 25 weeks. At this time there won't be any misinterpretation of the movements for hunger, gas or any other type of feeling.

8 First Trimester: Not Happening

Some women think any little movement in their lower abdomen is proof. “I can feel her already,” a woman might shriek about the fetus that’s a mere eight weeks. Sorry to tell her, but this isn’t possible: the fetus is just too small the first trimester to feel anything!

Don’t fret: there are plenty of things happening inside your body. If you think about how big your baby is at the time it makes sense that you can't feel them yet. They start out the size of a sesame seed and progress all the way to the size of a pea pod by the end of the first trimester.

Needless to say that there's plenty of room in your uterus for your fetus, and all that room means that although your baby might be moving, you won't be feeling it, but that doesn't mean it can't feel real! Your first trimester is a time of rapid growth, which is why it's quite important to drop any bad habits quick and take the best care of yourself you can from this point forward.

7 Second Trimester: Quickening Begins

Somewhere around 18-22 weeks, quickening often begins (aka feeling the baby move). Sometimes, you’re not even sure that it’s the baby moving; it can feel like a little fluttering. As time goes on, the fluttering increases to kicking.

Pay attention during these weeks - you don’t want to miss your first kicks. After a meal, relax in bed with your hand on your belly and you might feel something. These first kicks are the most exciting ones.

You can even use this time to bond with your baby! By 19 weeks your baby can hear sounds from the outside world, so engage with your little one and talk to them. This will encourage the relationship that you will have with them once they're born, so start nurturing that connection now!

You can do a number of things to connect with your baby, you can sing, dance, read and listen to music together. Incredibly your baby can recognize music they heard in utero once they're born, so go ahead and share that love of music with your child.

6 Third Trimester: Baby Wants Out

As baby begins to grow and explore their environment, they are moving around a lot more! It can even feel cramped to baby, so those pushes and pokes are baby wanting to get out!

You might feel less kicks, though. There’s not as much room for baby to move, so you’ll feel stretches and pushes (instead of kicks) as they roll around, exploring and trying to comfortable for the final weeks. And all this movement is good, it means you have a healthy baby on the way that is using their muscles and motor skills to explore their environment.

During your third trimester the baby should move about as much as 30 times an hour throughout the day. You may have noticed that your little bundle even has a preferred time of day for movement. For some moms that means kicks all night long, and that can be worrisome for a mom who doesn't want a night owl schedule once the baby arrives.

But no worries, the lining of the uterus is so thin during this trimester that your baby can distinguish between day and night, even inside your womb. For the majority of women, their babies are most active from 9am-1am, it could be you only notice a lot of movement at night because it becomes increasingly difficult to sleep when your little one doesn't settle down when you're ready to.

5 You Want to Sleep, Baby Wants to Move

It’s not that the baby knows when you want to sleep, and is already trying to destroy your sleep cycle. It’s just that as you’re relaxing, you are paying more attention to what is going on - and what baby is up to.

Baby's also respond to touch, so if you or your partner are touching your belly at this time, you're encouraging those kicks, and remember those kicks are a good thing, so don't be afraid to touch your belly! And once you've established your baby's routine, you can use your still times to count the baby's movements.

Try to relax. Let yourself be lulled to sleep by the kicks (if you can). But remember: you’ll always cherish these precious memories, and wish them back, so enjoy them while you can. Another reason babies are so active is the spike in your blood sugar levels in the third trimester. The extra sugar coursing through your baby turns into energy they use to fidget and move around.

4 Post Meal

Post-meal, the increase in your blood sugar could give your baby a sugar high - and they’ll be more likely to be kicking. If you’re ever worried that there isn’t a lot of movement, have a snack or juice to encourage the kicking. (Some particularly recommended orange juice for its high sugar levels to increase kicking.)

It’s not the food that encourages the kicking, but the increase in your blood sugar levels that does. If you find your baby is too active at night you can make sure to lower your sugar intake hours before going to bed. Substitute any type of sugary item you normally consume with a healthier option, like fruit.

This might also mean measuring the amount of sugar in your supper-time meals. If you find that you've been inadvertently eating a high sugar diet, you may want to start making sauces and salad dressings yourself to lower and monitor the amount of sugar you're eating on a daily basis.

3 Counting Kicks

Wait, why are you counting kicks? Many doctors will advise pregnant women to count kicks. Why?

Each day, count the kicks, once in the quiet morning hours, and once in the evening hours, where the kicks are quite frequent. Look at the clock, and count any kind of movements you feel, and stop counting when you get to ten. Note the time. Ten movements of any kind in an hour is normal, but it doesn’t mean something is wrong if you don’t count that many. 

If after an hour, you don’t feel anything, have a snack or some juice (to spike your blood sugar), relax and lie down, and try to count again. You should talk to your doctor if it takes more than two hours to reach ten movements. Not having enough movement isn’t necessarily a sign that something’s wrong, but it’s a good idea to have things checked out just in case.

As time moves on in your pregnancy, you’ll feel more and more kicks - and keep note of them. If you notice any kind of decrease in the regularity of your kicks, you might want to consult with your doctor and make sure everything is okay.

You’ll also feel hiccups! You might even play a game of push over your abdomen!

2 When You Don’t Feel Kicks

Talk to your doctor if you’re not feeling any movement; it could be a sign of some issue, although it very well could be nothing at all. There are certain times when you might not feel kicks. After sex, the baby might be rocked to sleep - and not kicking. So don’t worry.

If your placenta attached itself to the front of your uterus instead of your back, it will make it harder for you to feel kicks, especially early on in your pregnancy. If you don’t feel movement in later pregnancy, remember: baby is sleeping too! They might just be resting.

If you’re ever concerned, try to have a snack or some juice, and if things don’t change within a few hours, contact your practitioner. Lying down and resting can help increase the chances that you will feel kicks.

Also, keep in mind that as your pregnancy gets closer to the end, the kicking will slow down because your baby is crowded. It doesn’t necessarily mean anything is wrong.

1 The Best Thing About Kicks

It’s a great time where your baby is basically saying, “Hello, I’m here.” It’s so much fun to share as well. Your partner and your baby’s older siblings can also enjoy in the little messages, and it’s fun for the entire family to put their hands on your belly during a particularly eventful time.

It’s also your own little special message. Imagine you’re waiting in line in a store when baby suddenly says hello. It’s a very exciting moment in the midst of a particularly dull day. Enjoy it. Babies grow up so fast, before you know it, your little one will be walking and talking, right now you have them all to yourself, so cherish this time you have.

If you want, you can even record the baby's movements to share with your friends and family if you live far away. And hey, if you're lucky enough, maybe a YouTube video of your little one's kicks can result in some college cash!

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