Feeling your baby twist, wriggle, punch, kick, and hiccup is simply one of pregnancy’s biggest thrills (and it sure beats heartburn, puffy feet, an aching back, and some of the other hallmarks of these nine months). There may be no better proof that a brand-new — and impressively energetic — life is developing within you.
But fetal movement during pregnancy can also drive a mom-to-be batty with questions and doubts: Is my baby kicking enough? Too much? Does my baby have four legs (because it sure feels that way when the kicking starts)?
Although every baby is different when it comes to fetal movement, and there’s a wide range of what’s normal, it helps to take a peek into your baby’s world during pregnancy to understand what’s going on in there, and what to expect when.
Fetal Movement in the First Trimester
From the first few days and weeks of pregnancy (when that rapidly expanding cluster of cells is just a cluster of cells) through the end of the third month (when your practitioner’s Doppler just might pick up the lovely lub-dub of a heartbeat), the first trimester is a time of astoundingly fast development. But don’t expect to feel any fetal movement yet, your baby is far too tiny, and buried far too deeply within the protective cushioning of your womb, to make a blip on your belly radar. He or she could dance a jig and you’d feel neither a stamp nor a hop.
Fetal Movement in the Second Trimester
Ah, now we’re talking — or at least thumb-sucking, kicking, and thrashing. When will you actually feel those twitterings of life known as quickening? Some pregnant women (the very thin, or those who have had previous children) first feel their baby’s movement as early as the fourth month. Most women won’t be aware of, or recognize, the flits and twitches, which can feel a lot like gas or muscle spasms, for at least another few weeks.
By the fifth month, most women feel the fidgets and squirms of their active little tenant. The baby’s routines will grow increasingly acrobatic (and the punches more powerful) as those little muscles get stronger and those fledgling motor skills develop. Your little gymnast is still small enough to be able to turn somersaults with abandon within your uterus. Once you start feeling your karate kid’s kicks and chops, don’t panic if you go several hours — or even a day or two — without noticing any movement. At this stage ,and with your baby still quite tiny, it’s normal not to feel regular movement. If you haven’t felt any movement by the middle of the fifth month, your practitioner may order an ultrasound to take a look at how your baby is doing — it might just be that your due date is off.
Your baby picks up the pace in the sixth month. Leg movements will seem more choreographed, and you may start noticing patterns in the pitter-patter of those little feet (although it’s just as likely that the behavior won’t be predictable). Because the motion of your own body during your daily routine can lull the baby to sleep — and because you’re often focused on so many other things when you’re up and about — you may find that the baby is most active after you’ve settled down for the night (or after you have a snack; the surge in your blood sugar may give your baby a rush of energy — or when you’re nervous, since adrenalin can have the same effect). When you’re relaxed and more attuned to your body, you’re also more likely to be aware of what the baby is up to.
Fetal Movement in the Third Trimester
It starts to get a little cramped in the womb by the seventh month, but your baby still has enough room to toss and turn for a little while longer. Your pint-sized pugilist is getting stronger, and those punches, while comforting, can now be downright jolting. Babies are individuals, just like the rest of us, and the rhythms and patterns of their activity will vary. Try not to compare your baby’s movements with those of others or with your own previous children. Don’t stress if your baby seems unusually active; it doesn’t mean you’ll have a hyper child later on.
Those kicks and punches are not the only movement you’re probably feeling these days. Have you sensed an occasional flutter of faint but rhythmic tics? The baby probably has a harmless — and perfectly normal — case of the hiccups (not having them is just as normal).
|To Do in Month 7:||After week 28, you can expect to feel fetal activity every day. Set aside some quiet time twice a day to “count kicks,” or any fetal movement. Ten movements of any kind in an hour or less is normal. If you haven’t felt ten movements within an hour, have a snack or some fruit juice, lie down, and continue counting; if it takes more than two hours to reach ten, contact your practitioner.|
As your baby packs on the pounds in the eighth month, that formerly spacious apartment called your womb is becoming more like a cramped closet. Acrobatic tumbles are less likely now, but you’ll continue to feel wriggling and turning, with a few jabs of elbows and knees thrown in for good measure. If your little drummer’s bongo-playing starts to be more than you can take, try changing positions. Try sitting down if you’re standing or lying down on your side – the baby will likely change positions too and find something else to do. At this point, you may even be able to interact with your baby. Next time you see a protruding something — a knee, perhaps, or a foot? — give it a gentle press. If the baby is game, you might see the limb get pulled back, then pushed out at you again.
|To Do in Month 8:||Continue counting kicks, but be aware that your baby now has a fairly regular cycle of sleep and wakefulness. Sometimes a lull in activity just means deep slumber. You should be able to perk things up with a snack, which usually rouses the baby. If you don’t feel movement — ten within two hours, contact your practitioner right away.|
As showtime approaches, your baby is definitely center stage. In the ninth month, at nearly full length and weight, your little one is not so little anymore. You won’t feel those rapid-fire pummeling kicks, but larger lurches and bigger boots (as baby turns over, for example) will definitely get your attention. As will the pounding that some babies like to inflict on the cervix — maybe they sense where the exit is? Something else that will definitely get your attention: baby’s foot (or feet) lodging into your ribs. Ouch — that can hurt. A gentle nudge, a shift in your position, or doing the pelvic tilt might bring some relief.
|To Do in Month 9:||It’s crucial to note changes in activity; count fetal movements a few times a day, and report any sudden decreases to your practitioner.|
When baby engages — or drops headfirst down into the pelvis — some time before delivery (two to three weeks before in first-time moms, closer to the due date in later pregnancies), those activity patterns could change again. You’ll feel — quite strongly — every turn of your baby’s head (it might feel like little sharp electric twinges close to your cervix), but those little feet can no longer dig into your ribs, which is (finally) a relief. The last few weeks before delivery are highly individual — some babies move a bit less, but don’t be surprised if yours keeps up an energetic pace until it’s time for your face-to-face introduction.