Feeling the Baby Move
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Feeling your baby move for the first time is one of the most joyful milestones in pregnancy. While your little one has been pretty active for many weeks, its small size means you will have been unaware of the movement. Even when you do start to feel 'something' you may not realise at first that it is the baby.
When will I feel the baby move for the first time?
You can expect to start to feel movement when your pregnancy gets to around 18 to 20 weeks, although it can be later. The gentle, first fluttering sensations in the tummy are known as "quickening". These may be felt as early as 16 weeks if it is not your first pregnancy. After the 12 week scan, feeling the baby move for the first time is further affirmation of the little life growing inside your tummy.
What sort of movements will I feel?
As your baby gets bigger and stronger you will feel more obvious movement but there will be times when, like his mum, he will rest and sleep. Between 20 and 24 weeks the baby's activity levels will gradually increase and you will notice some lively kicks and somersaults during the day.
Over the next four weeks you will feel when your baby gets the hiccups or notice if he jumps at sudden noises. Around this time it is a good idea to keep a casual eye on the baby's movements. He will probably have daily patterns of movement and as you get to know them you will get accustomed to his normal activity. This helps you to notice any changes.
At 29 weeks the movements will feel smaller and more definite due to your growing baby being more squashed in, with less space in the womb to move around.
At the 32 week point in your pregnancy the baby will reach a peak in his movements. After this time, you will notice less movement than usual. This is because the baby has much less space to move around in. It is quite normal, but of course if you have any concerns contact your GP or midwife.
When you reach 36 weeks the baby may start to move into the final position for birth, normally head-down. The baby's arm and leg movements will now feel like jabs and can often hit your ribs.
In the final weeks of pregnancy the baby will be getting bigger and ready for life outside the womb. Again, movement may decrease. This is normal but do not be afraid to talk to someone if you are worried.
Your baby may, or may not, follow a similar pattern of waking and sleeping to you. He might be quiet during the day and then become active just as you lie down to sleep.
Remember to include your partner when you feel the baby move. As the movements get stronger he will be able to feel them and also see your bump change shape as a little foot or fist has a stretch. Enjoy and saviour these moments.
When should I be concerned?
Of course the baby's movements during pregnancy are also an important indicator of his health and well being. There is no normal pattern of movement or a set number or kicks you should feel in any one day. Every baby is unique. This means it is important for you to be aware of what is normal for your little one so you can recognise if and when the baby's habits change.
Try to set aside some time each day when you are relaxed and can tune into what your baby is up to. If you have not felt movement that day, try to encourage the baby to move by lying or sitting still; having a cold drink or listening to loud music.
A reduction in movement can be an indicator that something is wrong. After 28 weeks, you should seek advice if: your baby is moving considerably less than what is normal for them; your baby is not moving at all; there is a big reduction in the baby's movements or there is a continual decrease in their movements over a few days.
If you are not sure what consists of low activity levels for your baby then count the kicks over a two hour period of time when the baby is normally awake and active. As a guide, it is unusual for a healthy baby to kick less than 10 times within a two hour period when he would normally be active.
If you are at all concerned contact your midwife or doctor immediately. Your baby's heartbeat will be checked with a Doppler device and the size will be measured using a tape measure or by ultrasound. The baby's heart rate pattern will also be monitored using a CTG machine. In addition your blood pressure and urine may also be checked.
If everything is normal you will be sent home, but if you experience reduced movements again do not worry that you might be 'bothering' people with your concerns. Always seek advice straight away.