What you need to know about your baby’s movements

Posted on November 23rd, 2018

Feeling your baby move for the first time is one of the best moments in pregnancy, and while you look forward to the next kick, a slight change in your baby’s movements can cause alarm. We look at what’s normal and when to be concerned. By Thobeka Phanyeko

What you should know about baby's movements

As a first-time mom, you’ll be waiting eagerly to feel the kicks and flutters you’ve heard so much about, but you’ll also be faced with a lot of uncertainty regarding when, and how often, your baby will move. Our experts shed some light.

At what point in the pregnancy will I start to feel my baby move?

Midwifery consultant and researcher Dr Diana du Plessis explains that it’s generally accepted that movement may be felt midway through pregnancy but there are other contributing factors. “As a first-time mom, you will feel movement slightly later into your pregnancy, at approximately 22 weeks because you’re unfamiliar with the movements”, she says. She adds that it may feel like “gas” and doesn’t normally reflect the “butterfly” movements that most books refer to. “It also depends on the maternal body weight, since an overweight mom may also feel movement later.”

ALSO SEE: Here’s how much weight you should be gaining during pregnancy

Should I be concerned if I notice that my baby’s movements are becoming less frequent?

Babies’ movements reduce during the last few weeks of pregnancy, “and it is generally advised that your baby should move at least once every hour or 10 times while you’re awake,” says Dr du Plessis. She notes however, that if you’re overweight, have a lot a fluid surrounding the baby, or you’re just too busy to take note, you may miss movements altogether. According to Dr Howard Manyonga, head of The Birthing Team, once you start feeling your baby move, you will soon learn her patterns. “To keep track of frequency and vigour of movements, you can use a kick chart, which will help you to identify anything significant or if the baby is in trouble,” he says.

ALSO SEE: 5 interesting facts you may not have known about baby’s first kicks 

Is it possible that my baby could just be sleeping a lot?

Dr Monyonga says this could certainly be the case, because babies have a short sleep-wake cycle, and explains that you will soon learn how your baby’s sleep patterns work. Dr du Plessis notes that even if your baby is sleeping, you should still feel some movement, “she will still move because everyone moves in their sleep.”

Should I see my gynae whenever I have a concern regarding my baby’s movements?

“If your baby hasn’t moved for the previous hour, drink a sugary drink, or eat something, and if movement is still absent, go to the hospital where you are booked in for labour,” says Dr du Plessis.  She explains that you should go to the maternity ward and not admission, and tell them that you are not feeling movement. “They will put you on the ‘baby-machine’, which traces the heart rate as well as contractions. If they are concerned, they will phone the doctor or your midwife”, she says. Dr Manyonga recommends using a foetal kick chart to monitor your baby’s kicks. “If you have access to a midwife, she will advise you on how to use it. If there are still concerns, or if the kicks stop altogether, then it may be necessary to make an appointment for testing,” he says.

If my gynae dismisses my concerns, should I get a second opinion?

Our experts agree that an assessment by the gynae is never superficial, and will include a tracing of the baby’s heart rate or even an ultrasound.  And they reassure that it’s unlikely that the gynae or midwife will dismiss your concerns without confirming your baby’s wellbeing. “If you have not been properly assessed and reassured, then it may be worth getting a second opinion, just for your peace of mind,” adds Dr Manyonga.

What if I’m just anxious because I’ve lost a baby before?

Dr du Plessis affirms that it’s perfectly normal to be anxious due to your past experience, but trying to be present and focusing on the current pregnancy will help ease the anxiety. “Attend your antenatal appointments and stay positive. Fears regarding complications and a possible miscarriage are common,” she adds.  And she notes that if you’ve experienced previous pregnancy complications, you may be more concerned about the outcome of the current pregnancy and risk of developing a complication. It is therefore necessary to attend antenatal check-ups from the beginning of your pregnancy so that developmental issues can be addressed.

ALSO SEE: Why you should attend antenatal classes

Is it normal for a baby to move less in the third trimester due to lack of space?

Our experts agree that this is normal, because the baby has grown; there is less space for movement in the womb.  “Therefore movements in the third trimester may not be as vigorous as in mid-pregnancy” says Dr Manyonga.

When should I worry?

If you notice a significant change in the frequency of you baby’s movements, or if you do not feel any movement at all.