When a baby kicks in the womb, it isn't simply something they do to let you know they're there, it's actually key to them being healthy.
The feel of a baby growing and forming inside your body has to be one of the most peculiar and fascinating feelings on the planet. Even though it's one of the most natural things on Earth and is experienced by hundreds of millions of women around the world, it is still mind-blowing when you think about the process and even more so when you see it first hand.
One of the strangest feelings during pregnancy has to be when your baby kicks for the very first time. In reality, it might be a kick or a punch, but basically, when your baby starts moving enough that you can feel him or her, it can be an odd sensation. It turns out that your developing child isn't simply doing that say "Hello!" As covered by Live Science, fetal movement is extremely important to a baby's health and development.
Niamh Nowlan, a bioengineer at Imperial College London, has done extensive research into the movements of babies in the womb and why they are so crucial to the fetus' well-being. "The baby needs to move [in the womb] to be healthy after birth, particularly for their bones and joints," she explained. Apparently, a lack of fetal movement can lead to shortened joints and thin bones.
It's assumed by many that the baby's movement is caused by reflexes, but that is not the case. The kicks and the punches that a mother will feel later in the pregnancy are intentional. "It's likely the brain is in control of how much and when the baby moves," Nowlan told Live Science. Reflex movements, on the other hand, are caused by the spinal cord.
All of this research is very basic and some is actually based only on hypotheses. That's because unless a pregnant mom is in hospital, a doctor can't measure and track her fetal movement. Nowlan is on top of that too, though. She and her colleagues are currently working on a fetal-movement monitor that can be worn by the mother at all times. If and when that arrives we will be able to learn even more about how much babies move before they're born and why they are doing so.