Fetal Movement: What's Normal? - Kamm McKenzie OBGYN

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Fetal Movement: What’s Normal?

Everyday we get a wide variety of questions from expecting moms about their babies’ movements inside. When should I feel it? Why is my baby moving so much? Why can’t I feel my baby moving enough? What’s this weird thing I am feeling? Is my baby ok? Let’s take a few minutes to review fetal movement from the beginning.

Sensation of movement is variable patient to patient and pregnancy to pregnancy. The biggest factors that impact fetal movement are the location of the placenta and the pregnant mom’s weight. When a placenta is attached to the front of the uterus (also called an anterior placenta), onset of fetal movement is generally felt later and can be more subtle.  This is because the placenta will act like a cushion between the baby and mom’s abdominal wall. Thus the baby has to be bigger and stronger for that sensation to be felt. I tell my first-time moms with anterior placentas that it is common to start feeling movement regularly as late as 24 weeks. Those with a placenta attached to the backside of the uterus (referred to as a posterior placenta) can usually feel regular movement earlier, maybe 17-19 weeks. Similar to the cushion effect of a placenta, the more overweight mom is the more challenging it can be to feel the baby move.

When should movement begin? Well, see the above paragraph for regular movements; however many women feel little flutters earlier (15-16 weeks). I have noticed that the more babies someone has she usually can feel movement earlier and earlier. But remember, every baby has a personality and will move differently inside.  

Most patients and providers will agree that by the 24th week, expecting moms should feel some sort of movement daily.  Usually, as the baby gets bigger and stronger more and more regular movement can be detected. As one gets into her third trimester, she should be able to count 7-10 movements in a two-hour window, once a day.  For many women, this could take 10 seconds and they don’t really need to sit there and count. For others, they have to concentrate longer. Remember, the baby does not need to move 7-10 times in every two-hour window throughout the day. I usually recommend paying close attention during the period of time you always notice the baby more. This will ease your stress about fetal movement. If you are having one of those days with low movement, grab something to eat/drink, go to a quiet place and lay on your side. If you cannot get 7-10 movements in two hours, please call our main line.

Also important to remember is that as your baby gets bigger, it may not have the room inside to wind up and give you the karate kid kick/chop combo. You should still feel movement however. In addition, as the baby grows the movements can be painful (especially in the middle of the night). There is nothing you can do to ease the pain of movements, sorry!

What about strange movements? I get calls about “rhythmic movements” or “seizure-like movement.” These are probably hiccups or just a happy moving baby. Remember, there is no such thing as “too much movement.” Babies that move are typically doing just fine inside.

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