Baby movements during pregnancy: Understanding what’s normal and what’s abnormal

Published on: 7 July 2022, 13:00 pm IST

A baby’s health inside the mother’s womb is of utmost importance and the baby’s movement pattern could signify a lot about it..  

baby movement
Here's what baby movement's mean during pregnancy. Image Courtesy: Shutterstock
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One of the most important milestones in pregnancy is when the mother starts to feel the baby’s movements in her womb. It indicates the good health and well being of the little one, and strengthens the bond between the mother and child. But sometimes, it can be difficult for the new mother to understand until a movement pattern is established, and sometimes even after that, it gets difficult to assess whether the baby is fine or not.

So, here’s everything a new mother and her family need to know about baby movements in order to avoid hitting the panic button:

1. Quickening

Quickening is a term used to describe the first fluttery movements, which feel like bubbles or butterflies in the tummy. Generally, perception of baby movements is by 20-22 weeks for first time moms, whereas it is around 16-18 weeks for women with second or third pregnancy. Initial movements, almost up to the seventh month, are unpredictable and uncoordinated. But by 36-37 weeks, movements again decrease due to increased weight of the baby, reduced fluid and the smaller space available for the baby to move inside the uterus.

pregnancy
Be careful during your pregnancy Image courtesy: Shutterstock

2. Movements in second trimester

During the second trimester, the baby’s movements might be a bit unexpected. You will start to notice foetal movements a bit more regularly, and with increased intensity. But remember, your infant is only getting started. As the baby grows, purposeful movements begin and can be noticed with some stretches, some belly kicks and of course, some punches.

3. How is the third trimester different?

During the third trimester, the movement of the baby becomes quite vigorous and can result in quite an uncomfortable feeling for the mother and can cause nausea as well. The intensity and number of movements start to decrease closer to 36-37 weeks because as the baby grows, fluid around it reduces, thus reducing the space for it to move around inside the womb. At this time, doctors normally suggest doing kick count, which means keeping a check on how many times a baby kicks during a certain interval of time. It is also known as Foetal Movement Count (FMC).

Also, read: How air and noise pollution can affect your unborn baby’s health

4. Remember, your baby is unique

Every pregnancy is different, and each pregnancy for the same woman is also different. There is no set pattern of movements for babies. Please remember, babies are asleep most of the time and a pattern evolves as the pregnancy progresses. Some perceive more movements during the day whilst others at night. Both are completely okay.

5. Baby hiccups

Baby hiccups sometimes are felt as rhythmic movements after every couple of seconds. This usually raises concerns in the parent’s mind, but they should understand that it is a normal part of development of the baby, and it signifies good health.

pregnancy
You need to take care of yourself and your baby’s movements during pregnancy. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

6. Implications of abnormal movements

If the baby doesn’t move or kick, you should try rubbing the tummy for some time or have a snack or try changing your position. And if this persists for long, you should contact your doctor. Detecting a shift in movement could indicate a problem and can save your baby’s life. If you detect any, contact your doctor straight away. Complications such as problems with the placenta, uterus, or umbilical cord might cause abnormal movements.

While excessive movements are never harmful, any decreased or absent movements should always prompt medical attention. Last, but not the least, the one person who knows the baby the best is you. But if at any moment, you feel unsure of their movements and are concerned about their health, never wait to seek help from your doctor. 

Dr Archana Ramesh Dr Archana Ramesh

Dr Archana Ramesh, Consultant, Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, Motherhood Hospital, Banashankari, Bengaluru

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