Although it's an exciting time, the first trimester is fraught with worries for many newly pregnant women. The upcoming months will bring changes by the week, and it's hard not to be concerned that everything will go well. One of the most anticipated moments in pregnancy is feeling the baby move -- a validation that she is thriving, even though you cannot see her yet. She'll have to grow big enough to feel, but when she does, it's a memorable and often emotional moment.
The First Trimester
Most first-time mothers will not feel any baby movement during their first trimester. At about 6 or 7 weeks of pregnancy, the growing uterus is very low in the abdominal cavity -- low enough to push down on your bladder and cause those frequent trips to the bathroom. The fetus inside it is barely a half inch long and cushioned with amniotic fluid. Although you won't feel him, if you were to have an abdominal ultrasound around 9 weeks, you'd see him wiggling around in there and marching to his own beat.
Even though she has been moving around for a few weeks, you may not begin to notice it until about 16 weeks into the pregnancy. By this time, the uterus has been growing steadily and rising up into the abdomen. The first movements you'll feel are called "quickening." It won't come as thumps or bumps yet since baby's limbs aren't strong enough. You may feel a slight fluttering, gas bubbles, popcorn-style pops -- or as if a butterfly is flying around in your uterus. Moms describe it in any number of different ways, but the thrill is usually the same. Some women detect movement earlier than others, and there is a wide range of normal times for feeling that first movement. Anywhere between 13 and 20 weeks is common, with some moms not noticing even until 23 weeks.
Kicks and Punches
Once you realize you can feel your little one moving around inside, you'll probably be eager to let others share the experience. By weeks 24 to 28, his limbs may be strong enough for you to feel his jabs and kicks from the outside. If you're lucky, you may experience his whole body moving and causing a ripple across your stomach. He will likely hiccup, kick and shift position. His movements are more regular at this point, and you may even notice his sleep-wake pattern based on the movements you feel.
By the third trimester, you will likely be able to notice any differences in your baby's activity level. At this point, she has grown much larger, and her living quarters are quite cramped. It is more challenging for her to move around as freely as she once did, and you may notice a decrease in her activity level. Be mindful of the regularity and strength of her movements -- if in doubt, lie down in a quiet place and concentrate on her. According to Dr. Jennifer Keller, M.D, assistant professor at the George Washington University obstetrics department, if you feel him move at least twice in a half hour or so, things are probably okay. However, if you are alarmed by a decrease or lack of movement, be sure to call your health-care provider and don't hesitate to get checked out.
- BabyCenter: Fetal Movement: Feeling Your Baby Kick
- American Pregnancy Association: First Fetal Movement: Quickening
- What to Expect: Fetal Movement during Pregnancy
- WebMD: The First Trimester: Your Baby's Growth and Development in Early Pregnancy
- Childbirth Connection: Your Growing Body and Baby: 6 and 7 Weeks Pregnant -- Large Picture
- Childbirth Connection: Your Growing Body and Baby: Picture of 6 and 7 Weeks Pregnant
- Childbirth Connection: Your Growing Body & Baby: Picture of 20 Weeks Pregnant
- Parents: Fetal Movement: Feeling Baby Kick
- Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images