Pregnancy Stages / Development


A Full Guide on Interpreting Fetal Movements

What to expect with fetal movements, when the kicks and movements start during pregnancy and how to count movements.

A Full Guide on Interpreting Fetal Movements

It doesn’t matter if this is your first pregnancy or your fourth, those first fetal movements are one of the highlights of the nine month gestational period. It is thrilling to feel the baby as their feet and hands kick, flap, and turn cartwheels inside the womb.

Fetal movements are more than a form of entertainment giving expectant moms and dads something to discuss while passing away the hours until birth. A baby’s gymnastic routines are an indication of a healthy baby and a potentially problem-free pregnancy.

When Do Fetal Movements Start?

Your baby begins and maintains a rapid growth track right from the start. As soon as eight weeks after conception, Jr.’s little arms and legs are capable at waving hello to mom, but the size of a baby at eight weeks is just too small to cause mom to take notice, no matter how vigorous the motions are.

Speaking in terms of averages, first time moms are able to accurately distinguish baby’s motions from other abdominal sensations at about 16-20 weeks. It might take a bit longer for dad to feel those bumps and kick with his hand on the exterior of mom’s belly. The second and third time around moms usually feel the baby’s movements sooner, because they know what to feel for.

Feeling the First Flutters

The first fetal movements can be difficult to pinpoint because they are not solid kicks and turns that cause the belly to pop out comically as one sees portrayed on television. A baby’s first movements are small, just like they are. They feel more like butterflies in the belly or gas bubbles.

Kicks and Hits

Don’t worry, even though the first fluttering sensations of life are subtle, they quickly grow into large field-goal-scoring kicks and one-punch knock-out jabs. As the baby grows in size and strength they are more able to deliver a powerful wallop that dad will not only feel but see from across the room as well. You may even feel your baby hiccup, which will certainly be an interesting and entertaining experience!

Running Out of Space

As the pregnancy progresses and mom’s belly is stretched to its farthest extent with the baby still growing, the feeling of fetal movements will change once again. Your baby will eventually run out of space to make those running kicks. At this point the movements take on more of a rolling sensation, but with a great degree of elbowing and jostling.

To help paint a mental picture, imagine yourself, head and all, crammed in the world’s smallest sleeping bag with three of your closest friends alongside you. This is how it feels for your baby to be jammed in the cramped uterine space along side the ribcage and mom’s other organs. Now, imagine a roll. Yeah, it feels just like that.

Counting Motions

As space is at a premium, the movements might seem to slow down. This is when mom needs to begin consciously noticing fetal motions throughout the day. Lay down for an hour or so and see if you can feel your baby moving at all. If there are concerns with your baby’s movements, contact a healthcare provider without waiting for the next appointment.

Why Does A Baby Need to Move?

Babies need to move in the womb. They aren't doing it just for fun! Everything that happens with your growing baby at this stage is deliberate. Each change and action contributes to your baby's proper development.

A baby moves so that it can develop its joints, bones, and muscles. Without properly-developed muscles, bones, and joints, a baby won't be able to move properly once they're out of the womb. Every time you feel your little one kick, punch, or flip, know that they are simply getting ready to meet you.

This is why it's important to talk to your healthcare provider if you feel that your baby is not moving enough. A baby that isn't moving as much as it should may have complications with its development that need to be urgently addressed. Remember that movement can come and go, so don't race to your healthcare provider if you go several hours without feeling anything!

If you have any further questions or concerns about your baby's movement, make sure to consult a healthcare professional. Your doctor can help you understand everything that is going on, both with your body and your baby. They are your greatest ally when it comes to ensuring you deliver a healthy, happy, strong baby.

The content of this article should not be taken as professional medical advice. Always consult a licensed healthcare professional before making decisions that affect your health or your family's health.

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