Wondering when to worry about fetal movement?
Knowing your baby’s patterns can help you to notice if there’s any decreased fetal movement.
As your pregnancy progresses, those little kicks and punches are a sure sign your baby is in there, growing, dreaming, and figuring out their cozy world.
But what happens if they start to move around a little less?
Should you be concerned?
We’re here to offer some guidance on when to worry about fetal movement.
In this article: 📝
- When does a fetus start to move?
- What is decreased fetal movement?
- How long is too long not feeling baby move?
- Do babies have quiet days in the womb?
- What is abnormal baby movement during pregnancy?
- When to worry about decreased fetal movement
When does a fetus start to move?
Usually around 20 weeks most mamas will notice movement, maybe on the second, third, or fourth time it happens, but moms-to-be may notice movement sooner.
It can be hard to identify these little movements at first.
Over time, this movement, known as quickening, will be easier to spot.
And you’ll likely get better at noticing your little peanut’s little somersaults (and later their kicks and punches, too).
If you start to feel that they’re not moving around as much as they have been, it’s worth paying attention.
There might be some perfectly healthy reasons for this, but it could also be a sign that your baby needs to be evaluated by your healthcare provider.
What is decreased fetal movement?
Decreased fetal movement is a medical term for a mama-to-be sensing that their baby is not moving around as much as they normally do.
Every mama, every baby, and every pregnancy is different, so in many ways, this experience is quite subjective.
No one knows what your baby feels like more than you, and you’re the best one to judge if they’re moving around a little less.
That said, there are general guidelines on how often a baby should move.
(We’ll take you through them in a minute.)
Having a sense of what to expect can put your worries at ease and help you to know when you should get some help.
Decreased fetal movement can be scary, mama.
If you feel like you haven’t felt your baby move in a longer period than you’re used to, it’s OK to call your doctor or head to the hospital.
How long is too long not feeling baby move?
This depends on several things including gestational age and your baby’s unique kicking pattern.
The best way to know their kicking pattern?
Kick counting is recommended for the third trimester.
It involves starting a timer and:
- Seeing how long it takes for you to feel ten movements inside your belly, or
- Counting the number of kicks you feel within a 60-minute period.
Then, at roughly the same time every day, count the kicks again.
Keep track of your little one’s kicking score and over time, you’ll be able to get a sense of how often is typical for them.
If there’s ever a drop, you’ll know that it’s out of the ordinary — and that it’s time to call your doctor.
(Of course, there’s an app for this! Try Count the Kicks.)
If you count fewer than five kicks in one hour or fewer than ten kicks in two hours, you can try to wake your baby up by moving around, munching on something sweet, or drinking something cold.
If you don’t notice any change, then call your doctor straight away.
(It’s important to note that kick counting isn’t for everyone, and if the idea makes you feel anxious, then rather steer clear, mama.
You’ll learn what’s normal for your baby just by sharing your body with them, and will likely feel it if things change.)
Do babies have quiet days in the womb?
Until you’re about 24 weeks into your pregnancy, it’s totally normal for your baby to have quiet days.
But once you start to notice their movements, you’ll probably be aware of them pretty frequently.
Again, get used to their routines and rhythms, and try not to compare your baby to previous pregnancies or other people’s experiences.
As long as your babe’s behavior isn’t changing dramatically, they’re probably just in there doing their thing.
It’s important to note that as babies grow and the space in the uterus decreases, the perception of movement may change.
Younger babies may make more noticeable kicks and punches, whereas “older” fetuses may make more rolls and subtle movements.
What is abnormal baby movement during pregnancy?
Typical movements may feel like kicks, pushes, or stretches.
You might even be aware of your babe having the hiccups (how cute!).
This might feel a bit like a muscle spasm-type twitch.
There are a few movements that are a bit more unusual, and if you become aware of them, it’s best to contact your doctor.
Forceful and jerky fetal movement, or a frantic, shaking sensation, for example, could be a sign that your baby is having a seizure, as this case study discusses.
(It’s important to note that fetal seizures are very rare.)
When to worry about decreased fetal movement
You should call your doctor or midwife straight away if:
- Your baby starts moving less frequently.
- Your baby’s usual movements start to feel different in some way.
- You can’t feel your baby moving at all.
If you notice any of these things, there are a few explanations:
Problems with the placenta, uterus, or umbilical cord
These issues can cause your baby’s growth to slow down.
If the umbilical cord gets wrapped around their neck, it’s called a nuchal cord.
While nuchal cords are common, they can occasionally be quite serious.
Changes in the amniotic fluid.
Low amniotic fluid happens in about 4% of pregnancies, usually towards the end of the third trimester.
This condition might have no symptoms at all, or you might notice that your baby stops moving around as much as they have been.
If you experience the opposite and you have too much amniotic fluid, this extra padding can make it harder to feel your baby move.
Too much amniotic fluid isn’t common and is usually experienced by mamas-to-be who are carrying more than one baby or who have diabetes.
In either situation, your doctor will likely want to keep close tabs on you and your baby.
You’ll likely have additional ultrasounds to monitor your fluid levels.
Delivery may also be indicated depending on your gestational age.
If you need someone to talk to about this, you can always reach out to our Peanut community to discuss your concerns with other mamas.
The most important thing to remember is that every pregnancy is unique and that no one knows your baby’s movements better than you.
Trust your instincts — they kick in early (pardon the pun!).
If you feel worried at all, best to play it safe and reach out for help.
We’re with you, mama! ❤️