Feeling the first fetal movement is an emotional and exciting moment for several mothers. Imagining those tiny legs and hands move or head turn slightly relieves all the stress and physical discomfort that pregnancy brings. Most first-time parents eagerly wait to learn about their baby’s movements, but when can a mother feel her baby’s movements inside her womb?
Read this post to learn about the time you may feel your baby’s first kick, what baby movements feel like, tips for tracking fetal movements, and what causes fetal movements to reduce.
When Can You Feel The Baby’s First Movements?
You may experience the first, subtle baby movements anytime between the 16th and 22nd week of gestation. Referred to as quickening, these movements or kicks are a sign of healthy pregnancy and indicate that the baby is growing and has enough strength to move its hands or legs (1).
Initially, only the mother can feel the movement of the baby. But later on, as the pregnancy progresses, even others who touch the womb can feel them. Whether you are a first-time mother or a second-time mother, the feeling of your baby moving around inside you can just be overwhelming.
What Do The Baby’s Kicks Feel Like?
Recall that ‘butterflies in the tummy’ or fluttering feeling? That’s how you are likely to feel when the baby first moves. Mothers can differentiate between the feeling of the baby’s movements and gas bubbles. Initial baby movements include kicking, twisting, turning, or rolling. These movements become stronger as your baby develops (2).
Fetal Movement In the First Trimester
By the end of the first trimester, most of the baby’s organs are formed. So during this time, the baby’s movements will be similar to those observed in the second and third trimesters. However, not every mother can feel the kicks or baby movements in the first trimester. So even if you do not feel anything, be patient for some more weeks.
According to a study, some of the early fetal movements observed between eight and nine weeks of pregnancy include rippling, twitching, jumping, swimming, and floating. These are initially softer but turn stronger with each progressing week (3) (4).
Fetal Movement In the Second Trimester
During this period, you may feel different patterns of fetal movement. Some of the commonly noticed fetal movements during the second trimester include tilting of the head, body rotation, general movement, hand to face, mouthing movement (sucking and swallowing), and movement of the arms and legs (5). The baby continues to move later during the pregnancy as well.
Fetal Movement In the Third Trimester
In the last three months of pregnancy, the baby is almost fully developed and more active. Even the baby’s senses start to work by now, and they can hear and feel the things from the outside. The baby moves and kicks a lot, and you can track the movements by counting the kicks! Usually, it is recommended that the mom count the kicks to assess the baby’s health.
In the third trimester movement patterns can also be recognized. If babies are more active/moving/awake at night vis-a-vis day, mothers can expect the same pattern after birth. Babies also have sleep cycles in the third trimester where there can be no movement for up to 45 minute intervals.
The baby moves in response to the sound and position of the mother as well. So you may notice fetal movements such as turning and shifting when you move. And during the end of the pregnancy, by 36 weeks or later, your baby will settle in the head-down position (6).
Is the soon-to-be daddy eager to feel his little one’s kicks and movements? Read next to know when and how he can feel them.
When Can Others Feel The Baby Movements?
It would take a couple of weeks more for your husband or your loved ones to feel the baby kicks from the outside. Considering that every pregnancy is unique, some may feel the movements after 24 weeks of pregnancy, while others may feel a little later than that.
How Often Should You Feel Your Baby Movements?
Once the fetal movements begin, they tend to increase in frequency and intensity as the pregnancy progresses. It is essential that you, the mother, should observe and track the patterns of the baby’s movements. For instance, some babies are more active during the day and calm in the night. Some babies are night owls and are active when you want to sleep, but calm down during the day. Some others get active after the mother has eaten something, usually due to the increase of glucose or blood in the blood that is passed to the baby.
Some babies might make fewer movements, while others could be more active. By the end of the second trimester, you may understand how your baby acts and moves. Counting fetal kicks is a good way to assess the baby’s health (7). Note if there is a change in the pattern and consult the doctor in case of any doubts.
How To Monitor The Baby’s Kicks?
Kick counting or fetal movement counting is the process of tracking the number of times the baby kicks. It is essential to determine the health of the baby. Here are the steps to counting the kicks (7).
- Usually, professionals recommend you to drink or eat something before you start counting.
- Lie down on your side, in a quiet room. Note the time.
- Put your hands on the tummy (the place where you have felt kicks most of the time), and try to sense the movements.
- Start counting and check how long it takes for ten movements.
- Keep in mind that your baby should move at least ten times in about two hours.
Sometimes, there is a sudden decrease in the baby’s movements. Find out why in the next section.
What Causes Reduced Fetal Movements?
Most pregnant women notice reduced fetal movements during the last stages of pregnancy. That is because the baby is almost grown, and there is little space in the amniotic sac for the baby to move. Besides that, several reasons could make your baby stop kicking or moving (8).
- When your baby has changed its position, you might not be able to feel the same movements that you used to before
- If you have gained extra weight, you might not be able to sense the movements
- In case the amniotic fluid volume has increased
- When the placenta position has changed
- Smoking may inhibit you from feeling the baby’s movements
- You might get confused with the baby’s sleeping patterns, or the baby changes the pattern
- When you are stressed, you may not feel the baby’s kicks
There is nothing to worry about in any of the above cases. In case you do not feel anything, drink some water or eat something and lie down in a quiet place to monitor the kicks again. Try it for a couple of days. But if you still don’t feel the movements, you may check with the medical professional.
When To See The Doctor?
If you don’t feel ten movements in two hours, you may talk to your midwife or doctor about it. The doctor can run a scan or a test to monitor the well-being of your baby. The scan could also indicate why your baby is not making any movements.
In the next section, we address some commonly asked questions about the fetal movements.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Why does my baby move more at night?
Some babies are active during the day, while some are at night. Both are part of a healthy pregnancy. If you feel your baby is moving more during the night, it might be because your body is inactive and you can feel even the slightest movement. During the day, you could be working and may not be able to focus on the baby’s kicks.
2. Can I feel the fetus move at 11 weeks?
Generally, women do not feel anything until they are in the second trimester. But every pregnancy is different, and some women may feel the movements at the last stage of their first trimester, which is during 11 or 12 weeks of gestation.
3. What does it mean if my baby is very active in the womb?
An active baby in the womb is a healthy baby. Active baby movements include kicking, moving hands and arms, turning around, and changing the position quite often. Just make sure to keep a note of the patterns of your baby’s movements.
4. Is it hard to feel my baby move if I’m overweight?
Yes, if you are overweight, your abdominal walls could be thicker. In such cases, it might take longer for you to feel your baby’s movements. You may feel fewer or no movements compared to the mothers who are not overweight. For this reason and your overall well being, pregnant women should keep their weight in check.
Feeling your baby’s first movement is a surreal experience for moms-to-be. Several mothers experience their baby’s first fetal movements between the 16th and 22nd weeks of pregnancy. These movements feel like fluttering or butterflies in the stomach. You can record and monitor baby movements to know if the baby is growing fine. Sometimes you may feel reduced fetal movement. But, don’t worry. Talk to your midwife or doctor to understand the reasons. The medical professional can run a scan and see if the baby is doing good.
- Monitoring fetal movements help ensure the healthy development of the baby.
- The first fetal movements can be felt at around the 16th to 22nd week of pregnancy.
- Others can feel the baby’s movements at around 24 weeks of gestation.
- Extra weight gain or changes in the placental position may cause reduced fetal movements.
- J. Bryant and J. Thistle; Fetal Movement; NCBI
- Your Baby’s Movements During Pregnancy; C. S. Mott Children’s Hospital Michigan Medicine
- L. G. Van Dongen and E. G. Goudie; Fetal movement patterns in the first trimester of pregnancy; British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (1980)
- S. Goto and T. K. Kato; Early fetal movements are useful for estimating the gestational weeks in the first trimester of pregnancy; Ultrasound in medicine and biology (1983)
- S. Sajapala et al.; 4D ultrasound study of fetal movement early in the second trimester of pregnancy; Journal of Perinatal Medicine (2017)
- Your Baby’s Movement and Position; Kaiser Parmanente
- Your Baby’s Movement; UNM Hospitals
- A. Linde et al.; Fetal movement in late pregnancy -a content analysis of women’s experiences of how their unborn baby moved less or differently; BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth (2016)