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Frequency of Baby Movement During Pregnancy

by Bridget Coila

From the first flutters to kicks inside your belly, the movement of your baby during pregnancy can be an exciting sensation to experience. The frequency of baby movement in utero can change dramatically throughout your pregnancy, and it might even vary during the course of a day or during a few days.

Early Movements

The first movements you feel, which can occur as early as 13 to 16 weeks of gestation, generally aren't in any predictable pattern. The first light movements might even feel like gas or slight fluttering, and many first-time mothers don't recognize them as fetal movements at first. After those first few movements, you should notice an increase in fetal activity as your baby gets bigger, but don't be alarmed if your baby's movements don't match up to what you hear from other moms-to-be because frequency and strength of movement vary widely in early-to-mid pregnancy.

Peak Baby Movement

You'll probably notice your baby's movements peak at about 28 to 32 weeks gestation, according to the American Pregnancy Association. At this point, your baby is big enough for you to really feel any movements he makes but small enough to still have lots of room to kick, push, twist and twirl around in the amniotic sac. As you progress toward your due date, your baby's motion will slow down because he's running out of space to move as he gets bigger.

Monitoring Movement

In some cases, your doctor might want you to keep track of how often your baby moves. This generally involves recording any movement, whether slight or large, and keeping track of how long it takes for the baby to move at least 10 times, according to the American Pregnancy Association. Most babies make 10 or more movements within an hour or two, although a baby might move much less if he's asleep in the womb. Many moms-to-be find that their babies move most at night or right after a large meal, so if you don't feel 10 movements within two hours the first time you try, have a snack and try again later in the evening. Lying down on your left side can also help make it easier to feel fetal movements for counting.

Concerns

If your baby's movements have slowed or stopped completely for more than a few hours and you are past your seventh month of pregnancy, contact your doctor as soon as possible to check for any potential problems. Your doctor might want to monitor your baby further using ultrasound or a fetal heart rate monitor. A 2009 study in the "Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology" found that 26.6 percent of women who reported decreased fetal movement had an actual problem with the pregnancy. However, multiple instances of decreased fetal movements or a decrease in movement occurring in conjunction with other pregnancy problems could indicate that your doctor needs to keep a closer eye on you during the remainder of your pregnancy.

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