Feeling your baby move for the first time (usually between 16 and 20 weeks but can be up to 24 weeks) is just amazing. At first you might find you are not really sure if you felt it. The feelings can be different for each woman from a feeling of pops, bubbles, flutters, squirming, rolling, swishing, pressure, nudges to a full-blown kick that can make you squeal out loud as it takes you by surprise! If you haven’t felt your baby move by 24 weeks, it is worth getting an extra check-up with your midwife who will listen for the baby’s heart beat and check things are okay.
However, after you are sure you have felt your baby move there can then follow a period of anxiety about how much you should feel it and what you should do if you haven’t felt the baby move for a while. This blog will give you information to help you understand what is normal and what isn’t.
Firstly, women in their first pregnancy may not feel the baby move as quickly as somebody in their second pregnancy partly as the woman who has already been pregnant once knows what to look out for. Also, if you have an anterior placenta you may feel things slightly less or later as the placenta gets in the way of what you can feel! An anterior placenta is absolutely safe and fine for the baby it just means you can’t feel as much of the baby’s movements. Finally, if your baby lies with their back at the front of your womb (uterus, bump) you may feel less – again there is no problem with them lying this way but it will affect what you feel.
It is common for the baby’s movements to increase as the pregnancy develops up to about 32 weeks when the movements stabilise. The baby will keep moving right up to and during labour. Each woman’s baby will move in different patterns – no two are the same. It isn’t true that movements reduce later in pregnancy due to lack of space – if your baby’s movements reduce at any point you must get medical attention.
Although no two babies’ movements are the same, it is common for women to be aware of more movements in the afternoon and evening but this may not be the case for all. It is also worth knowing that babies sleep frequently – usually for 20-40 minutes but sometimes up to 90 minutes. When the baby is asleep you won’t feel it move.
As your baby’s movements become more established, it can be useful to just take note of when your baby usually moves and how they move just so you know what is normal for your baby. This can help you work out what is normal for you both. If you have any concerns at any point that things are not normal for you and your baby, you should seek advice from your midwife and/or doctor. Although it is useful to be aware of what is normal for you, there is no evidence that keeping a diary or chart improves the outcomes for you and your baby and in fact may make you more anxious.
If you feel that things have changed, or that movements have reduced, do ask to see a midwife who will do a full check-up including listening to the baby’s heart beat and measuring the size of your bump. Contact a midwife on the day you are worried, do not wait for your next routine appointment.
If you are less than 28 weeks the midwife may not see you straight away but if you are over 28 weeks you must be seen the same day. If you are under 28 weeks the baby’s heart beat will be listened to for a relatively short time usually whereas if you are over 28 weeks the team will listen for about 20 minutes. If they have any concerns, they will refer you for an extra-scan which is usually done within 24 hours. In most cases, everything will be fine but it is important that the midwives check for any problems that could increase the risk of stillbirth.
Whilst at your check-up, the midwife may encourage you to get the baby moving by having an ice-cold glass of water and sometimes a sugary snack too and to sit quietly for an hour to concentrate on the baby’s movements. Often at this point you will relax and the cold drink and sugary snack get your baby moving. This can be hugely reassuring for you but doesn’t replace medical checks.
It is worth adding that if the movements reduce again, you should seek medical attention again, even if the check-up last time was completely fine. It is worth knowing that you can contact a midwife at any time in a 24-hour period – at your booking appointment your midwife should give you useful contact numbers but if in doubt call the hospital where you are booked and ask for the labour ward which will have a midwife available 24hrs a day 7 days a week.
Furthermore, it is important to know that a home doppler monitor is not suitable to be used for reassurance if you think movements have reduced. You must get a trained professional to see you and not be reassured by a home monitor.
In addition, don’t feel you are wasting people’s time and that perhaps you should just wait for your next appointment. If you are concerned, contact a healthcare professional that day.
Here is a great video to summarise this blog in 90 seconds created by Tommy’s midwives: https://youtu.be/0BTHB-DVi8M
As Tommy’s midwives would say “Trust your Instincts”.
I hope this blog helps you to enjoy your baby’s movements but to also know what to do if they change or reduce at all. Please do share this knowledge with your pregnant friends. If you have further queries or comments do post them in the comments below or get in touch @PregnaPouch or PregnaPouch@gmail.com.
The PregnaPouch team
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