Your Baby’s Movements

General Information

Most women are first aware of their baby moving (also known as fetal movement) when they are 18–20 weeks pregnant. However, if this is your first pregnancy, you may not become aware of movements until you are more than 20 weeks pregnant. If you have been pregnant before, you may feel movements as early as 16 weeks. Pregnant women feel their unborn baby’s movements as a kick, flutter, swish or roll.

As your baby develops, both the number and type of movements will change with your baby’s activity pattern. Usually, afternoon and evening periods are times of peak activity for your baby. During both day and night, your baby has sleep periods that mostly last between 20 and 40 minutes, and are rarely longer than 90 minutes. Your baby will usually not move during these sleep periods.

The number of movements tends to increase until 32 weeks of pregnancy and then stay about the same, although the type of movement may change as you get nearer to your due date. Often, if you are busy, you may not notice all of these movements. Importantly, you should continue to feel your baby move right up to the time you go into labour. Your baby should move during labour too.

During your pregnancy, feeling your baby move gives you reassurance of their wellbeing. If you notice your baby is moving less than usual or if you have noticed a change in the pattern of movements, it may be the first sign that your baby is unwell and therefore it is essential that you contact your midwife or local maternity unit immediately so that your baby’s wellbeing can be assessed.

There is no specific number of movements which is normal. During your pregnancy, you need to be aware of your baby’s individual pattern of movements. A reduction or a change in your baby’s movements is what is important.

Reduced Fetal Movements

What should i expect?

Are you worried about your baby’s reduced movements? This leaflet outlines the care that you should expect to receive, depending on which stage of the pregnancy you are at.

Less than 24 weeks pregnant

Most women first become aware of their baby moving when they are 16–24 weeks pregnant. If by 24 weeks you have never felt your baby move, you should contact your midwife, who will check your baby’s heartbeat. An ultrasound scan may be arranged and you may be seen by a specialist to check your baby’s wellbeing if a problem is suspected.

Between 24 and 26 weeks pregnant

You should contact your community midwife.

If they can’t see you, they may refer you to the hospital maternity unit. Your baby’s heartbeat will be checked and you will have a full check-up that should include:

  1. checking the size of your baby by measuring your bump
  2. checking your blood pressure
  3. testing your urine for protein.

If your baby is smaller than expected, an ultrasound scan may be arranged to check on your baby’s growth.

Over 26 weeks pregnant (NBT Guidance)

You must contact your midwife or local maternity unit. You must not wait until the next day to seek help and you should be seen on the same day. The Antenatal Assessment Unit is open 24 hours.

  1. You will be asked about your baby’s movements.
  2. You will have an antenatal check-up, including checking your baby’s heartbeat and measuring the size of your bump.
  3. Your baby’s heart rate will be monitored using a CTG, usually for at least 20 minutes.

You should not be discharged until you are happy with your baby’s movements again.

You may also have an ultrasound scan if:

  • your baby is smaller than expected
  • your pregnancy has other factors that are associated with a higher risk of stillbirth.

The ultrasound scan is normally done within 24 hours.

These checks usually show that all is well. Most women who have one episode of reduction in their baby’s movements go on to have a healthy baby.

What should I do if I find my baby’s movements are reduced again?

When you go home you will be advised to keep an eye on your baby’s movements. If your baby has another episode of reduced movements, you must contact your local maternity unit promptly. Always contact your midwife or local maternity unit immediately, no matter how many times it happens. You are not being a nuisance.

Home dopplers

Do not be tempted to use a home doppler to check on the health of your baby at home. Even if you detect a heartbeat it does not mean your baby is well.

NBT guidance is based on recommendations made by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and Tommy’s about treatment of women with reported reduced fetal movements.

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