Feeling the baby’s movements

Get to know your baby

From 20-24 weeks you can feel your baby moving. During check-ups, the midwife keeps track of the growth and fitness of your child. No one knows the child before he or she is born as well as you do. Therefore, we recommend that you pay attention to your child’s pattern of movement every day during pregnancy. This way you’re in touch with your child and get to know him / her well.

Your child’s movement patterns: what do you feel?

During the first pregnancy, you usually start to feel the baby moving around at 20-24 weeks. By the second pregnancy, it is often sooner, already at 16-18 weeks, because you know what to pay attention to. Often the first movements are described as “bubbles” or “nervous twitches”, or “butterflies”. Some women describe it as “rumbling bowels, but different’.

Once you have felt the baby move, you will recognize the movements more frequently. You will feel your child more clearly. Once you’ve felt your baby move for the first time, it’s possible you won’t feel It every day, but that is no cause for worry. Your baby will move in your womb forcefully and less forcefully, and those less forceful movements may be so minor you won’t feel them at all. From time to time, the baby will get the hiccups. You’ll feel small, rhythmic contractions. If you change your posture, it’s possible you can feel the baby move more, too. For example, if you lie down from a sitting posture.

You’ll feel your baby best when you are relaxed, and least when you are standing up, walking or busy. From about 28 weeks, the movements in your belly will become more distinct. You can feel the baby kick, twist, and prod. Your partner will be able to feel it now too.

Around the same time, your baby will develop a sleep-wake cycle. Most time is spent sleeping, which can be deep sleep and your baby will barely move. It can also be a deep sleep in which the baby is dreaming – every so often he or she will move. The sleep-wake cycle alternates and there will be periods where the baby will be very active, moving all the time. The frequency of your baby’s moves differs for every child, but also for every pregnancy. The child will be most active around 32 weeks. During the last weeks of pregnancy, the movements are slightly less powerful. Also, the breaks between active periods will be longer  – this is normal. It may be due to the decreasing amount of amniotic water in the womb. The baby is fully grown and the space within the womb has become limited. For example, a 24-week baby can’t be still for more than 20 minutes. In the last few weeks of the pregnancy, it may be still for an hour.

What can affect the baby’s movements and feeling them?

It’s important that you feel the movements of your child as you’ve become used to. Some children are very active and others are quite calm. Some pregnant women feel less movement than others. This can have a number of causes:

– If the placenta is on the front of the uterus, this may make that you feel the movements less. The placenta acts like a kind of shock pad.

– If you use medication, alcohol or drugs, you’ll feel your child’s movements less.

– Your baby may be a bit calmer or slower if you’re using painkillers like morphine, or sedatives. Smoking and alcohol can also affect your baby’s movements.

Why is it important to feel a baby’s movements?

Your baby gets everything he / she needs through the placenta. As long as the placenta functions well, the baby will move well, so he / she indicates that it feel comfortable in your stomach. If the placenta is not functioning properly, your child will move less, the baby saves energy this way. That’s why it’s important to monitor your baby’s movements. You’ll notice when something’s wrong with your child and can prevent bad things from happening.

What to do when you feel fewer movements?

It’s possible that you’ll feel your child move less than you’re used to for 12-24 hours. First, consider if you have been busy. Consider if you’ve had a tight or hard stomach (Braxton-Hicks contractions).  It’s possible that this might have caused you to miss your child’s movements. After that, try to focus on your baby’s movements in a relaxed state for 1-2 hours. Feel free to take a hot shower or bath. You can also lie down on your left side. Concentrate on possible movements of the child. Try to breathe deeply into the belly and relax. If, after this period of conscious relaxation, you have not yet felt your child move, contact your midwife. Do not wait until the next day. During office hours you can call the assistant, but after hours call the midwife at the emergency number. The midwife will then ask you several questions. Based on your answers, she determines whether a more extensive check is required. It’s possible you’ll have to go in to the practice. Note: The midwife may have given you extra advice on how to feel your child’s vital signs – follow this advice.

Extra exams

If the midwife deems it necessary, you can go into hospital for more extensive exams. In hospital, a CTG (CardioTocoGraphy) is made. During a CTG, your child’s heart rate is recorded for a minimum of half an hour. This gives a better impression of how the baby is doing. Furthermore, the amount of amniotic water is examined with an ultrasound. The child’s movements are also examined. When everything’s in order, you’ll be allowed to go home again. Once home, continue with the regular midwife check-ups.

However, it’s possible that there are doubts about your child’s condition. Then more exams are required. Depending on the results of the exams and the number of weeks you are pregnant, it may be advisable that your baby is delivered as soon as possible.

If after the exams you’re feeling your child move less again, do not hesitate and contact your midwife again.