It is important to get to know your baby’s regular pattern of movement so you are able to report any change to your midwife or antenatal ward. Fetal movements vary from four to 100 every hour and so there is no set number that can determine reduced fetal movements. This is why it is important to start to recognise your baby’s pattern as soon as you begin to notice their movements.
You can make a mental note of when your baby moves the most, it might be that they move at the same time each morning or evening, or that they always move after lunch. This is a great thing to make a note of as it can help you if you have any concerns to have a point of reference.
If you are busy you may not notice these movements or kicks so it can be a good idea to set aside some time each day to focus on your baby’s movements. If you find you get to the afternoon or evening and can’t remember what movements you’ve felt from your baby you can use one of kick counting wristbands. You can purchase these wristbands from our online shop and you move the counter along each time you feel your baby’s movements, you can then see how many times your baby moves by certain points of the day.
With mobile phones being so common in day to day life we have developed an app that can help you keep track of your baby’s movements. You can download the app by searching kickscount (no spaces) in the App store or Play store.
What is reduced fetal movement?
One of the greatest challenges is the lack of consensus on what is a ‘normal’ number of fetal movements and over what specified time frame. Fetal movements vary from four to 100 every hour and so definitions of reduced fetal movement based on counting less than 10 movements in two, 12 or 24 hours are unhelpful.
Therefore reduced fetal movement is a reduction in your baby’s regular pattern of movement.
It is important to get to know your baby’s regular pattern so if you notice they are not moving as they usually would you are able to seek medical help.
What is increased fetal movement?
A baby’s movements will gradually increase week by week until 32 weeks when they will plateau but not reduce. The increase should be gradual, if you notice a sudden spell of erratic increased movement contact your midwife.
If what is causing your baby to suddenly increase their movements is that they are in distress, this will usually be followed by a spell of reduced fetal movement. However this is not always the case so it is important to report every episode of sudden increased fetal movement to your midwife.
What are my baby’s movements week by week?
Weeks into pregnancy:
0-8 weeks : Your baby will begin to move at around 7 weeks pregnant and while these will be visible on an ultrasound scan you will not feel your baby move for another couple of months. Your baby will be making general movements like bending and startling.
9 weeks : At around 9 weeks your baby may begin to hiccup and move individual limbs like arms and legs. They may also be able to suck and swallow, this will help them prepare for breathing. Although the hiccups will start around now you will not be able to feel them until much later. It is important to remember when you do start to feel hiccups, they do not count as baby ‘moving’.
10 weeks : At 10 weeks your baby can flex and turn his head and bring his hands up to his face. He is also developing finer facial movements like opening and closing his jaw.
11 weeks : By 11 weeks your baby can yawn in the womb…but don’t take it personally!
12 weeks : The baby’s skeleton begins to develop into bone and although you still won’t feel them yet your baby is developing more defined movements.
14 weeks : At 14 weeks your baby can begin to move his eyes, although there won’t be much to look at!
20-24 weeks : As the weeks go by, your baby’s activity will gradually increase. It is likely to be around this time that you first notice your baby’s movements. It may feel like flutters at first, also known as quickening. If this is your first baby it can sometimes feel like gas or indigestion. Over the next few weeks it is a good idea to make a note of your baby’s activity pattern, do they kick more in the morning or evening? Do they have spells when they do a lot on movements? This will help you determine if there is a change in your baby’s regular pattern of movement.
24-28 weeks : Around this time you may start to notice when your baby gets hiccups. These will feel like regular, rhythmic, jerky movements. These are an involuntary reflex and so do not count as movement. You may begin to notice that your baby responds to outside sounds and jumps at sudden loud noises. You may also notice your baby has a favourite band or sound! Your baby may begin to follow a pattern for waking and sleeping. Very often this is a different pattern from yours, so when you go to bed at night, the baby may wake up and start kicking.
29 weeks : Your baby will begin to make smaller, more definite movements and the movements may begin to be more noticeable from the outside. This is a great time to get your partner involved as they can sit and calk to your bump and feel the baby kicking. It is a great bonding experience.
32 weeks : Your babies movements will gradually increase week by week until this time when they will plateau but NOT REDUCE. If you notice any reduction in your baby’s movements you should report it. The care you receive will depend on your stage of pregnancy. Your baby will not run out of room and should continue to move up to and during birth.
36 weeks : Your baby can take up his final, usually head-down, position. This is more likely to happen at this stage if this is your first baby. The firm muscles of your uterus and tummy will help to keep him in place. The main movements you are likely to feel now are jabs from his arms and legs, and possibly painful kicks to your ribs.
36-40 weeks : Your baby will be getting larger, and won’t be rolling over as often. Instead, you may notice a persistent kick underneath your ribs on one side or the other. ALthough the type of movement will have changed, the frequency should not. You should continue to feel your baby as frequently as before and if you notice any change in your baby’s regular pattern of movement you should report it to your midwife or antenatal ward.
My baby is moving less, what should I do?
If you are concerned your baby is moving less you should contact your midwife or healthcare professional immediately. Babies should not slow down or move less as you reach the end of pregnancy. Babies will continue to move up to and during labour. If you have been busy and have not noticed baby’s movements take some time to sit down and count the kicks. You may have just been too busy to notice the baby moving. If you are still not happy that the baby is kicking as normal phone your midwife or antenatal ward
If you have recently been in with reduced movement and are worried you are bothering them by going in again, they won’t mind. They are there for you and your baby whenever you need them and every midwife we have ever spoken to says they would rather see a woman a hundred times and all be OK than to see her once and have to tell her theres a problem.
Why are baby’s movements so important?
A baby’s movements are a key indicator of their wellbeing.
The majority of women experiencing a stillbirth (55%) reported that they had perceived a change in their baby’s regular pattern of movement prior to the diagnosis. It has been identified in a number of studies in of stillbirths in Norway and the UK that an inappropriate response by clinicians to maternal perception of reduced fetal movement was a contributory factor in stillbirth. It is therefore important that Mums are aware of the importance and insist on the right care if they notice a change in their baby’s movements. You can read more here about the care you should receive based on your stage of pregnancy.
In Norway, a comparison was made between the incidence of stillbirth before and after women were given written information about fetal movement and the importance of reporting reduced fetal movement and a standard protocol for the management of reduced fetal movements was introduced. The incidence of stillbirth fell from 3 per 1000 births to 2 per 1000. In women perceiving reduced fetal movement the rate dropped from 42 per 24 per 1000.
By reporting all cases of reduced fetal movement promptly, assesments can be carried out and those babies thought to be at risk can be delivered early. It is thought up to a third of stillbirths could be prevented this way.