Fetal Movement – What Does Baby Movement Feel Like?


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From the earliest days of pregnancy, it’s normal for moms-to-be to look forward to feeling those first flutters that mean that their baby is moving around. Feeling your little one wriggling, twisting and kicking inside you is a great thrill and is one of the highlights of the nine months of pregnancy. It’s also a reassuring sign that all is well. However, fetal movements can lead to worries. Concerns about whether your baby is kicking enough or too much can cause anxiety. All babies are different. Some babies move a lot more than others, and there’s often no cause for concern. Here, we’ll give you a clearer idea of what to expect, answer the question that all pregnant women ask – “what does baby movement feel like?” and let you know what you should do if you’re worried.

What Does Baby Movement Feel Like in the First Trimester?

In the early weeks of pregnancy, your baby will be developing at an astoundingly fast rate. However, despite the change from just a cluster of cells to a fetus that looks like a miniature baby at the end of the 12th week, you shouldn’t expect to feel any movements. At the moment, your baby is too small and is too deeply hidden in the womb’s protective cushioning to create any movements which could be felt by the mom-to-be. If you haven’t experienced any kicks up to the end of the first trimester there’s no cause to worry – that’s completely normal.

What Does Baby Movement Feel Like in the Second Trimester?

Once you reach the second trimester of pregnancy you will begin to experience your baby’s first movements. At this stage, your baby is still growing rapidly and is beginning to move its arms and legs. Often, when you go for your ultrasound scan you’ll see your baby even sucking his thumb in your womb! So, when can you expect to feel those first fluttering movements?

The majority of women report feeling the first movements of their baby between the 14th week and the 26th week. This is known as the “quickening”. The most common time to experience the quickening is between the 18th and 22nd week, although in subsequent pregnancies women often report feeling their baby move earlier – perhaps because they know what to expect!

The placental position also has a role to play in how early you experience movements – if the place is in the anterior position (or facing front), it muffles the movements so you need to wait longer to feel kicks.

How Do I Know What Kicks Feel Like?

When women are asked to give an answer to the question “what does baby movement feel like?” it can be difficult for them to give a clear description. Some say it feels like butterflies or fluttering, while others say it feels more like waves as if a small fish was swimming in their stomach. Some describe it as a nudge or twitch, while others have even said it feels similar to hunger pangs or even a bubble bursting. You may even think that it’s similar to the feeling of riding a rollercoaster. However, you can be certain that whatever those first movements feel like, they’ll make you smile!

What Times of the Day Am I Likely to Feel Movements?

In the daytime, your body’s own movements can lull your baby to sleep. Also, you’re usually focusing on other things during the day so you may not notice any movements. You’re more likely to find your baby starts moving once you’ve gone to bed for the night. Once you’re relaxed, you’ll be more attuned to your own body and that makes you more likely to notice what your baby is doing. Many pregnant women also find that their baby is more active after they eat. This is because your blood sugar levels will increase after eating and this gives your baby an energy boost. Also, if you’re anxious the adrenaline levels in your body have a similar effect, giving your baby an energy rush.

Do Movements Feel Different at Different Stages of Pregnancy?

As your pregnancy progresses, the movements you experience will feel different:

  • Fourth Month – most women won’t feel anything at this stage, but some very slim women or those who are pregnant for the second time will feel their baby’s first movements about now.
  • Fifth Month – most women experience early fetal movements at this point in their pregnancy. They will be quite gentle at this stage but as you start to recognize what your baby’s movements feel like you’ll begin to notice them more frequently. As this month draws to a close you’ll usually notice your baby’s movements becoming more acrobatic. You will also experience stronger punches and kicks as their muscles become stronger and they develop more motor skills. You may actually feel your baby turning somersaults at this time. If you haven’t experienced any movements by partway through the fifth month your doctor may suggest an ultrasound scan to check your dates – you may think you’re further along than you really are.
  • Sixth Month – at this stage, you’ll experience more choreographed leg movements and you’ll probably begin to spot patterns in your baby’s routines. From the end of this month, your little one will start to have less room to move in your womb so you’ll probably start to feel more movements on a daily basis.
  • Seventh Month – at this point, your baby still has sufficient space to turn around. He is also getting stronger each day so you may notice that some of their kicks and punches are quite jolting. You may also notice that you will sometimes experience rhythmic tics. This often indicates that your little one has hiccups!
  • Eighth Month – your baby is getting heavier each day and that means your womb is starting to get more cramped. You’ll notice fewer acrobatic tumbles but turning and wriggling should still occur on a daily basis with some distinctive jabs from knees and elbows. You may even begin to see a knee, foot or elbow pushing out and changing the shape of your stomach! If you’re starting to become exhausted by your baby’s movements, try changing your position. If you’re standing up, sit down, or if you’re lying down, change from your back to your side. This can help to encourage your little one to stop or to change positions so you experience fewer movements. You may start interacting with your little one at this stage. If you spot a foot or knee protruding from your stomach try pressing it gently. Sometimes, you’ll feel your baby pushing back at you!
  • Ninth Month – now your baby has almost reached his full length and weight and will be feeling very squashed in the womb. You’ll no longer feel rapid-fire kicks but you’ll definitely experience larger movements and lurches when your baby turns over. Many women report feeling a pounding sensation on their cervix at this stage which can be quite uncomfortable. Sometimes, your baby’s foot will lodge in your ribs during this month and this can be quite painful. Shifting your position or gently nudging their foot could bring you some relief.

What Does Baby Movement Feel Like Just Before Delivery?

In the 2-3 weeks before your delivery, your baby will engage. This means that they will drop into your pelvis, usually in a head-down position. This will occur later in second and subsequent pregnancies. At this point, you’ll probably notice their activity pattern changing again. Every time your baby’s head turns, you will feel the movement like a sharp twinge by your cervix. Luckily, their feet won’t be getting caught up in your ribs any more though! Some babies reduce their movements a little in the last couple of weeks before birth, but some are just as energetic as ever. You should definitely experience some movements each day, however.

Is My Baby Kicking Enough?

Once you reach 28 weeks of pregnancy, your doctor may advise you to start counting kicks or movements to check everything is going well. This may be easy if you have a very active baby, but if your little one is quite lazy you may need to set aside some time to count their kicks. Count any type of movement, whether it’s a kick, flutter, roll or swish and stop once you get to ten. If there are ten movements of any type within one hour this is considered to be normal. If you haven’t experienced ten movements in an hour have some juice or a snack, go and lie down then carry on counting. If it takes over two hours to get to ten, you should call your doctor. It doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s a problem but it could occasionally mean that your baby needs to be monitored. As you near your due date it becomes even more important to regularly check on your baby’s movements. By the ninth month, you should count kicks several times each day. If you notice sudden decreases in movements call your doctor to get a check-up.