Baby Movement and Kick Counts

When Do You Feel Baby Move: Baby Movement and Kick Counts

May 31, 2019

When Do You Feel Baby Move: Baby Movement and Kick Counts

When Do You Feel Baby Move: Baby Movement and Kick Counts

Feeling your baby move for the first time can be an exciting feeling, but it also can be, well, kind of confusing. Is that my stomach rumbling…or is that the baby?

We promise that eventually, there’ll be no question about baby movement—the kicks will be so strong you won’t even question it. Later in pregnancy, the feeling will be so distinct you’ll be able to—and totally should—do kick counts to monitor your baby’s well-being.

Here’s the full scoop on when you can feel baby move, how to know what you’re feeling is actually a kick and how to do kick counts once those little jabs are unmistakable.

When Can You Feel Your Baby Move?

A first-time mom will initially notice something somewhere around the 18- to 25-week mark.

If you’ve been pregnant before, you may feel baby movement sooner. Studies show it could be as early as 16 weeks, says Jennifer Lang, M.D., a Los Angeles–based ob-gyn and author of The Whole 9 Months: A Week-by-Week Pregnancy Nutrition Guide with Recipes for a Healthy Start. Doctors believe veteran moms can recognize and identify baby movement earlier because they’ve already experienced it.

“We call it ‘quickening,’” says Dr. Lang. “It can feel like a fluttering type movement.”

Wondering what’s going on in there? Babies move around in utero to stretch and practice their motor skills. They might kick, punch and roll around. At some point, you might feel gentle, rhythmic hiccups.

Some of the most common questions we get about baby movement are:

When Can You Feel Baby Kick?

You might notice your baby is more likely to move around when you’re sitting or lying down, and it’s quiet. Some pregnant women find their babies are most active in the evenings and that they move around more after they eat a meal or drink of a sugary drink. Eventually, you might also notice your baby respond to sounds or even your emotions with gentle (or not so gentle) kicks.

What Do Baby Kicks Feel Like?

Baby kicks will feel different throughout your pregnancy. The most common descriptions of those first baby movements is that they feel like gas or digestion, or like bubbles or butterfly wings.

Mid-pregnancy, kick will become stronger and more frequent, feeling more like gentle presses and pushes. Then, they’ll get even stronger and more distinct (which is when you’ll start doing kick counts—more on that later). You might even find yourself saying ow!

When Do You Feel Baby Flutter?

Flutters and kicks are one in the same! Since baby’s so small in the beginning, their movements are super gentle, like the aforementioned butterfly, fluttery eyelashes or even a nervous tummy. You’ll likely feel baby flutter in the 16- to 19-week range. Once baby gets bigger, the flutters will give way to unmistakable kicks and tumbles. At that point, you probably won’t question it, you’ll know when you feel baby move.

How to Get Baby to Move

It’s easy to miss those tiny flutters when you’re busy running from one thing to the next over the course of your day. If you want to make baby move, the best way is to lie down in a quiet spot with no distractions. (As your pregnancy progresses, make a point to lie on your left side, which will take the pressure off your uterus and improve your circulation.)

“Just calm your breathing and pay attention to your body,” Dr. Lang says.

You could also try eating—especially sugary foods—or drinking ice water to prompt baby to kick more. Though some moms swear this can make baby move, from a scientific perspective, there’s no strong evidence this will work for everyone.

How to Know if Baby’s Movement—or Lack of—Is a Problem

“I think more people are anxious about fetal movements and what they mean than almost anything else,” Dr. Lang says.

If you don’t yet feel baby movement at the 20-week mark, that doesn’t necessarily mean that anything is wrong. For example, if your placenta is in between your belly and the baby (called anterior placenta), it could be harder to detect movement than if your placenta is on the other side of the uterus, near your back (posterior placenta).

If you’re still in mid-pregnancy and you haven’t felt baby movement, it’s likely everything’s just fine—so long as your uterus is growing appropriately in size and you’re not experiencing any irregular bleeding, Dr. Lang says. Keep up with your regular prenatal care and let your doctor know so they can make sure everything looks healthy.

Once you do start feeling kicks, you’ll want to keep an eye out for changes in baby’s habits.

Decreased Fetal Movement: If your baby is moving less than usual, there may be a perfectly reasonable explanation. For example, sometimes baby is just sleeping. There are certain times babies just tend to be chill, such as after sex and while you’re moving around. Late in pregnancy, as babies run out of room, they may kick a little bit less often. Sudden decreases in movement, though, could be a sign of a problem.

Increased/Excessive Fetal Movement: There are some pretty active fetuses out there! If you have one of them, you might wonder if all that movement could be a sign of a problem, and usually it’s not. Baby’s just really busy! But there are some cases where movement suddenly becomes increased, it could be a sign of fetal distress.

Be sure to talk to your doctor if you have any concerns about your baby’s movement.

What are Kick Counts?

Kick counts are the best way to understand your baby’s movement patterns, so you can either rest assured that everything is status quo, or know that there’s something “off.”

When to Start Counting Kicks

Start doing kick counts at 28 weeks pregnant. That’s when baby’s kicks are likely to have become strong, and they’ll have developed more noticeable daily habits.

Do your kick counts around the same time every day. Try for a time when you find your baby is typically most active. Remember: baby isn’t going to behave exactly the same way every day at the same time. But you can look out for patterns and noticeable changes to them.

How to Count the Kicks

While you’re focused (either sitting or lying in that quiet room or simply going about your day), pay extra attention to what’s going on inside.

“You’ll want to be able to feel 10 distinct movements—rolls, kicks or flutters—within a two-hour period,” Dr. Lang says. “Most of the time, you’ll get there in the first five minutes,” though it could take as long as two hours. If you don’t feel baby move 10 times in two hours, wait a few hours, and then try again.

Record baby’s movements and how long it took to reach 10 of them. You’ll begin to notice a pattern of what’s normal for your baby.

Call your OB if:

  • You haven’t felt 10 baby movements in those two 2-hour periods.
  • If there’s a noticeable change in your baby’s movement pattern over three or four days.

Above all else, go with your gut. If anything feels different about your baby’s movement—if you’re noticing less, or none at all, especially after the 24-week mark—call your doctor. “Maternal perception of fetal movement is actually one of the best indicators of well-being that we have in the entire field of obstetrics,” Dr. Lang says. “Try not to become a hypochondriac, but be keyed into your body and baby and its patterns—trust yourself.”

If you can’t remember the last time you felt baby move, lie down for a kick count. If you’re worried at all, tell your doctor.

This information is provided for educational and entertainment purposes only. We do not accept any responsibility for any liability, loss or risk, personal or otherwise, incurred as a consequence, directly or indirectly, from any information or advice contained here. Babylist may earn compensation from affiliate links in this content. Learn more about how we write Babylist content.