Decreased Fetal Movement: What to Know

Decreased Fetal Movement: What to Know

Decreased fetal movement is the medical term for when a mama-to-be isn’t feeling her baby move as often as they’re used to.

While there are many harmless reasons for this, it can also mean the fetus is in distress.

Recognizing the signs of decreased fetal movement and knowing when to get medical help can save a baby’s life.

Before we begin — your mama instincts are incredible, and you should trust them even before your little one is in your arms.

In this article, we explain how to count kicks to recognize decreased fetal movement.

But if you’re worried about your little peanut, it’s more than OK to go straight to the hospital.

In this article: 📝

  • What is decreased fetal movement?
  • What does decreased fetal movement indicate?
  • When to go to hospital for decreased fetal movement
  • When should I worry about decreased fetal movement?
  • Decreased fetal movement — the bottom line

What is decreased fetal movement?

Officially speaking, decreased fetal movement is when your baby appears to be less active than they were previously.

This definition recognizes that you know the pattern of your baby’s movements.

It’s based on what you feel and know — rather than a diagnosis by ultrasound or by someone feeling your belly from the outside.

What does decreased fetal movement indicate?

First up — is it normal to feel your baby move less on some days?

Yes, especially earlier in the second trimester when you’re still learning what the movements feel like.

For example, decreased fetal movement at 25 weeks might be because the baby is kicking towards your spine instead of out towards your belly button.

Some other common reasons for decreased fetal movement are:

The placenta

If it’s forward (anterior), it’s more likely to cushion the baby’s kicks so you can’t feel them.

Your baby’s position

Especially earlier in pregnancy, they might be lying in a different position or spot every day.

Your baby’s size

Do baby’s movements slow down in the third trimester? Sometimes.

Decreased fetal movement at 35 weeks, for example, can be because they’re running out of space to stretch their legs.

Your baby’s sleep cycle.

Even before they’re born, babies have phases of being really active and then sleeping deeply.

Your routine

If you’re on the go — as so many of us always are — it’s easier to miss when your baby moves.

When to go to hospital for decreased fetal movement

Although it may be nothing serious, it’s vital to go to the hospital whenever you think there is decreased fetal movement because it can be much more serious.

Decreased fetal movement at 38 weeks, or even earlier, can mean that the placenta or umbilical cord isn’t working as it should or that the level of amniotic fluid is too low.

These can be very dangerous and can even mean that the baby needs to be delivered immediately.

If you think something is wrong and you want someone to check on your baby, don’t wait.

In its guidance on decreased fetal movement, the NHS in the UK tells you to go to the hospital even if it’s the middle of the night.

When should I worry about decreased fetal movement?

If you suspect your baby is not moving as much as you’re used to, The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) guidance is to stop what you’re doing and count the baby’s kicks over one to two hours.

You should feel 10 strong, distinct movements within one hour.

If you don’t count ten jabs, kicks, or rolls in 60 minutes, you should try to wake your baby up.

You can get up, move around, eat something sweet, drink something cold, then lie down on your left side and count again.

If you don’t feel 10 movements within the second hour, head straight to the hospital.

At the hospital, doctors will run tests like an ultrasound to check your amniotic fluid levels and a CTG (non-stress test).

A CTG monitors the baby’s heartbeat and movements and checks whether you’re having contractions.

Dig deeper: When to Worry About Fetal Movement

A note on home dopplers

It’s easy to buy a home heartbeat monitor (or fetal doppler) online, and this can be a fun way to bond with your baby if you already know all is well with your pregnancy.

But doctors want parents-to-be to ditch their home doppler if they have any concerns about their baby’s health.

It’s too easy to pick up the mother’s heartbeat on one of these devices, which can give false reassurance and stop the baby from getting the medical help they need.

Decreased fetal movement — the bottom line

Even if it turns out that your baby was snoozing extra deeply that day, experiencing reduced fetal movement can be scary.

If you suspect that your baby is not moving as much as previously, count the kicks.

And if you think there’s anything to worry about, get to the hospital.

You’ll either get the help you and your little one need — or some much-needed peace of mind.

And if you need to talk, your Peanut community is there for support.


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