Feeling Baby Movement – When and What to Expect

Feeling Baby Movement – When and What to Expect

Learn when to expect baby's first movements and understand what they mean for fetal development, offering peace of mind to expectant mothers.

If you are a first-time mom, feeling your baby kick is a big milestone. Most women begin to feel a quickening around 20 weeks, though this varies by individual.

Some experts suggest doing a kick count to get a sense of your baby’s activity. They recommend setting a timer and counting 10 movements (flutters, jabs, swishes or rolls) over two hours.

First Kicks

A few weeks into pregnancy, you’ll likely start feeling your baby’s first kicks. At this point, the movements can be confusing and might even be mistaken for gas, but over time you’ll get used to what they feel like, and they will become stronger as your pregnancy progresses.

The first kicks can be a bit strange, like a fluttering feeling or even waves (like a little fish swimming in your stomach). They’ll feel different for every person, depending on their own experience. Some women will be able to sense movement from the beginning of their pregnancy, while others might not feel a thing until around month 17. The baby’s kicking can be as subtle as a twitch or as strong as a punch, but they are an important milestone for any expectant mom!

Once you’ve started feeling a few kicks, you can start counting them. “It’s a great way to keep track of how your uterus is developing and also a fun and exciting activity,” says Miller. It’s generally best to count over the course of two hours to ensure you’ve felt a minimum of 10 fetal movements, though this can vary from pregnancy to pregnancy.

As the second trimester progresses, you’ll feel your baby’s movements becoming more and more rhythmic and choreographed. They’ll go from soft, rhythmic flutters to more powerful punches and nudges.

Second Trimester

You can expect to feel your baby’s movements in the second trimester, which is from weeks 13 to 27. This is the period of time when morning sickness usually subsides and most women start to feel more comfortable.

The fetus is getting big enough at this point to move freely within the amniotic sac, and your first fetal movements may be felt as a fluttering sensation that some women describe as similar to the feeling of butterflies in your stomach. These early sensations can be hard to distinguish from gas, muscle twitching, hunger pangs or other bodily movements, but they should become more distinct and stronger as the pregnancy continues.

Once the flutters get stronger, they can feel like gentle taps or a swishing sensation in the belly. Alternatively, some women may describe them as feeling like popcorn popping, goldfish swimming around or butterflies fluttering. As the flutters get stronger and more regular, they will often be felt right after eating or during sleep.

Some mothers will also begin to notice that their baby is more active straight after a meal or at night while they are resting. Babies tend to be most active at these times because the placenta is creating a pillow that makes it easier for them to move. Don’t worry if you go a few hours or even a day without feeling any movement, though. This is very normal for most pregnant women.

Third Trimester

The third trimester covers weeks 29 through 40, or months 6, 7, and 8. The fetus is now getting really big. It’s common to feel a little less frequent but stronger baby kicks during this time, as the muscles and bones strengthen. Some women may also start to feel a twitching sensation that mimics hiccups.

Some women don’t feel their baby’s movements until the second half of this trimester, especially if it’s their first pregnancy. This is often due to the position of the placenta, which can muffle fetal movement.

Many people start to notice that their baby moves more frequently during the day and less at night. This is thought to be because the fetus is most active after eating, when there is an increase in sugar in the mother’s blood.

In the third trimester, most pregnant women feel their baby move 10 times in a two-hour period. But every baby is different, so if yours isn’t moving as much as it used to, or you are worried about not feeling any kicking at all, check in with your doctor. They can help reassure you and possibly recommend a visit to the hospital or birthing center to do an ultrasound to check on your fetus’s health. They can also do a pelvic exam to see how dilated your cervix is and what the position of the fetus is.

Fourth Trimester

Many expectant mothers break their pregnancy down into trimesters, counting weeks until their due date. Once a baby is born, they tend to stop counting — it’s all about the new arrival and figuring out how to parent this little one. But a few experts prefer to think of the first three months post-birth as a fourth trimester, which acknowledges that the mother and infant are still critically connected in ways that aren’t easily explained.

Babies need to re-learn the world outside of the womb, and this can be hard. This can mean adjusting to life without the reassurance of a warm environment and familiar sounds. It can also involve refining their senses and learning to sleep and eat on their own. It’s not uncommon for newborns to cry a lot during this time, and it’s a good idea to get support from friends and family while you work through this.

The fourth trimester can be exhausting for new parents, but it will pass in what feels like no time at all. Phoenix mom Erin Nicoletti says thinking of this period as a third trimester helps her keep the challenging days in perspective and reminds her that the help she received while pregnant isn’t over once her little Leo was born. Jennie Bever, executive director of 4th Trimester Arizona, agrees. She says that by raising awareness about the fourth trimester, “parents feel embraced during what might be a hard time and others understand that this is an important but normal part of the baby-raising process.”


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