Baby’s movements in the womb: What does it feel like?

Can you feel the baby moving yet? It’s a question most pregnant women will hear, often when they’ve only just announced their pregnancy! So, when exactly does bub start moving?

When baby starts to kick

Your baby will move as soon as he has little legs, which happens when he’s only a few weeks old. You’ll start to actually feel his movements from as early as 13 weeks or as late as 25 weeks. As he’s so small, initially his movements will feel more like flutters than kicks, and you often won’t be positive the sensation is due to the baby at all. But as the flutters settle into a pattern (going on for a few minutes at a time then slowing down) and become more pronounced, you’ll be certain.

If you’re a busy person who doesn’t sit down terribly often to focus on things like kicking, you’ll probably notice your baby’s movements a bit later. First-time mums, who aren’t sure what to expect, also tend to experience their baby’s movements later. The same goes for overweight mums and those whose placenta is anterior and so forming a barrier between bub and the abdominal wall.

Once the movements are established they become part of everyday life. How often and how vigorously your baby kicks is highly individual. As a rough rule of thumb your baby spends 10 per cent of his time moving and you feel about 80 per cent of this, though new research suggests mums-to-be detect only a third of their child’s movements.

No movements from baby

Feeling your baby kicking is a reminder that he’s alive and healthy, so when he doesn’t move it’s natural to worry a little. While the vast majority of pregnant women who don’t feel their baby move for a period of time go on to have a healthy child, the fact is that no movements from baby is a red flag. Most women who experience a stillbirth say in retrospect that their baby was moving less in the lead-up time. So you can’t ignore it.

The bottom line is that you should trust your instincts. You’ve carried this baby for months now and know his patterns and peculiarities better than anyone. If you feel something is wrong, tell your doctor and get bub checked.

You might have heard that your baby’s movements will also slow down just before the birth. Without a doubt, a fully-grown baby’s size reduces his ability to perform somersaults in your uterus, but he’ll still move as much as ever.

Checking in

So, how do you know if the baby’s movements really have slowed down or stopped? It’s interesting that despite the fact many women are told to count kicks (and there’s no shortage of ‘kick charts’ on the market), there’s no research to back the practice for preventing stillbirth.

However, if you are advised to do it, the correct technique for counting kicks is this: when your baby enters a ‘wake cycle’, lie on your side and count how long it takes him to move 10 times. Only rolling and wiggling count (not hiccups). This should usually take only 10 to 30 minutes. If it takes longer than two hours to get 10 kicks, call your doctor.