We cannot say it enough: #MovementsMatter! Do you know *why* your doctor asks at every checkup if your baby is moving? It's because movement is your baby's BEST way to communicate with you.
There's no one set standard for what constitutes "normal" fetal movement, because every baby and every pregnancy is different. Get to #KnowYourNormal because that's the best way to get to know your baby!
And here's the MOST IMPORTANT PART: If you notice any changes, you need to get checked out RIGHT away. Even if you have an appointment soon, it's better to #AlwaysAsk, and don't hesitate to #UseYourMomVoice to ensure your concerns are heard. You and your baby are a team! Read more about what to do if your baby's movement changes here.
Download our International Consensus Statement on Fetal Movement & How to Keep Your Baby Safe (PDF) here!
Baby Movements 101
Why do my baby’s movements matter?
Your baby's movements are a sign of their wellbeing.
When babies are unwell, they slow down their movements to preserve energy. When you feel less movements it could be a sign that your baby is unwell.
There is time to intervene. Come to the hospital straight away so that your baby can be checked out. If there is something wrong this gives time to help your baby.
While stillbirth is very rare, it is 10 times more likely to happen than SIDS. Studies have shown that over half of women who experienced a stillbirth noticed a reduction in baby movements.
Fetal Movement FAQs
When should I start to feel movement?
You should start to feel your baby move around 16 to 24 weeks of pregnancy. A baby’s movements can be described as anything from a kick, flutter, swish, or roll. (A movement or kick is whatever you define it to be for your baby!)
How often should my baby move?
There's no set number of movements you should feel each day – every baby is different. It’s important to get to know what’s normal for your baby. Your baby’s normal will become clear from 24-28 weeks. Your baby should not slow down.
1. How FREQUENTLY does your baby move?
2. How STRONG are your baby's movements?
3. What PATTERNS does baby typically show?
Keep reading below to learn how to monitor all these aspects of your baby's unique movements and what to do if you notice any changes! It's easy, free, and a great way for the whole family to bond with your baby before birth!
How do I get to know my baby’s movements?
You need to be aware of your baby’s movements throughout the day and should also time and count at least one kick session per day. Here's how!
Step 1. LEARN (All day, every day!) - Learn your baby’s daily movement pattern around 24-28 weeks
How often is your baby active? Pay attention to how many sessions you feel your baby move throughout the day, and the strength and frequency of the kicks.
Soon you’ll notice if your baby is most active in the morning or is a night owl, is sleepy at lunchtime or active in the evening, or responds to sounds, voices, pokes, changes in your body position, etc. Every baby is different and there is no set number of kicks that you should feel. (One-size-fits-all standards like "10 kicks in X hours" are outdated!)
Step 2. TIME & COUNT (Once per day!) – Count baby’s movements during a session every day, at least once a day, near the same time each day
Kicks, rolls, and jabs count.
Hiccups do NOT count.
At the end, also note how strong your baby's movements generally felt (fluttery, fierce, or somewhere in between?)
Remember: a movement is whatever you define it as. Every baby and every pregnancy is different. The important thing is to be consistent for you and your baby.
After a few days, you will learn what’s normal for your baby. You can even invite your partner, your baby's siblings, or other loved ones to join in on the fun!
Step 3. COMPARE (All day & after each session) - Is your baby acting like they normally do?
After each session, compare that time (how long did it take) and strength (how did the kicks feel) with past sessions.
Throughout the day, compare if your baby is active at their normal times, responding to their usual favorite stimuli (voices, pokes, position, etc.).
Go to the hospital immediately if you notice ANY of the following:
a change in strength of movements during your counting session
a change in how long it takes your baby to get to 10 movements in a session
a change in your baby's daily patterns, for example, if their kicks are more subtle or happen less often, there is a wild surge, etc.
or if you are concerned for any reason, even if you can't quite explain it. (That's your intuition, mama!)
Step 4. GET CHECKED (Right away, as often as needed!) - Go to the hospital immediately if you notice any changes or feel concerned
The Labor & Delivery team is available 24/7 for you and your baby to get checked. Don't put off getting checked until the next day or wait until your next scheduled appointment. Swift action can literally save your or your baby's life.
You can call your provider to let them know you are coming. However, you do not need their permission to go in or to get checked. Changes in movements CANNOT be checked from home - you need to go to the hospital immediately.
A change in movements can be an early sign and sometimes the ONLY warning sign that your baby needs help. Some examples of a change include less movement, weaker movements, or an unusual rapid increase in movement, including frantic, jerky fetal movements. Trust your gut instincts.
DO NOT waste time drinking cold water or eating something sugary to get your baby moving, or starting a new kick count, even if asked by a healthcare professional - just go get checked out immediately.
DO NOT use handheld monitors, dopplers, or phone apps to check your baby’s heartbeat. Even if you detect a heartbeat, this does not mean your baby is well.
You should not be discharged until you are happy with your baby's movements. DO NOT go home if you are not feeling reassured. Simply say, "Something still doesn't feel right. Can you please keep looking?" or "I'd just like to stay on the monitors a little longer until I'm not feeling scared anymore."
(Any provider who is not receptive to this request is NOT treating you with the respect you deserve! No one knows your baby or your body better than you. If needed, #UseYourMomVoice to ensure your concerns are heard!)
Read more here about what to do if you notice a change in your baby's normal movements.
Psst - Save a copy of our handy reminder card to your phone to always have these #EmpoweredPregnancy tips at the ready!
REMEMBER: Every baby is different. What's normal for this baby may not be what was normal for your previous baby, and certainly not what's normal for your friend's baby. It's important to #KnowYourNormal so that if you notice any changes, you have a baseline to compare to!
Common Fetal Movement Myths
Unfortunately, there are many widespread myths about babies’ movements. Research has debunked the following:
X It is FALSE that babies run out of room in the third trimester due to lack of space.
✅ A baby’s movement frequency, patterns, and strength should stay the same or increase in the third trimester (only the types of movements might change as there's less space). Babies do not "run out" of room. A reduction or change in movements can be a sign your baby is unwell and needs to be checked out.
X It is FALSE that babies’ movements slow down before or during labor
✅ You should feel your baby move right up to and during labor. A reduction in movements can be a sign your baby is unwell and needs to be checked out.
X It is FALSE that a certain amount of kicks is fine. "I should aim to count 10 kicks in 2 hours, right?"
✅ There is no set number of movements to look out for. Some babies may move 10 times in one day, and others may move 10 times in one minute! Babies can move anywhere between 4 and 400 times in a single hour! It's important to know what is normal for you and your baby, and report any changes on that.
X It is FALSE that an increase in movement is never something to worry about. "When my baby is 'going crazy' this is good, because any increase in movements is good!"
✅ While a steady increase in movements throughout pregnancy generally implies a healthy and growing baby, a sudden rapid increase in movements that's noticeably different from a baby's normal pattern can be a warning sign that the baby needs help and should be checked immediately.
Babies DO NOT Slow Down!
We've heard it too many times, and this misinformation is lethal. So let's set the record straight: Evidence shows that babies DO NOT slow down at the end of pregnancy.
Fetal movements may evolve over time as baby has less room to play, but their kicks should NOT get weaker or stop (at least, not for any longer than it takes them to nap!). And baby should remain active, responsive, and strong right up through delivery - going quiet to "get ready for birth" is a dangerous old wives' tale that needs to be eradicated!
Also, there is no set standard for how often a baby should move. That's why you'll hear doctors say everything from "10 kicks in 2 hours" to "10 kick in 24 hours." The only numbers that apply to your baby are whatever numbers are normal for them.
In fact, you should take note of ANY CHANGE to your baby's normal frequency, patterns, or strength of movement, as this can be an indication that your baby is unwell and needs urgent medical attention. Medical providers used to be mainly concerned about reduced fetal movements, but newer standards are flagging any altered fetal movement. Even a sudden *increase* in movements - anything you might describe as wild or frantic or crazy - could potentially be a sign that your baby is in trouble!
As always, DO NOT DELAY in reaching out to your healthcare provider - or better yet, go right in to be checked out! - if you ever have ANY concerns. Swift action could literally save your or your baby's life.
IMPORTANT: Have you noticed a change in your baby's normal movements? Here's what to do.
Handy Tool: Count the Kicks app!
The FREE Count the Kicks app is a GREAT resource for getting to know your little one! This awesome tool will regularly remind you to kick back and spend some time with baby, recording their movements and rating their strength (1 "fluttery" to 5 "fierce"), and includes up-to-the-minute science-backed empowered pregnancy tips.
Every mama is busy and it can be easy to second-guess our instincts - but if you're regularly checking in with your baby using the app, you'll have this potentially lifesaving data (literally! check out their #babysave stories!) right at your fingertips.
The app works for single babies or twins, and is available on Android, iPhone, and Apple Watch in 12 languages! So what are you waiting for? Download #CountTheKicks and start getting to #KnowYourNormal!