Sometimes it seems like there’s just so much to do during pregnancy, from drinking raspberry leaf tea for an easier labor, to making your appointments, exercising to boost baby’s brain power, and more. So adding another thing to your to-do list? No thanks! But hear us out—fetal kick counts is something that you should definitely add to your must-do list! In fact, research indicates fetal kick counts are a reliable indicator of your baby’s health!

When Will I Start Feeling the Baby Kick?

Baby’s movements increase as your pregnancy goes on, but you will probably feel those first flutters between 16 weeks and 25 weeks pregnant.

If you’re a first-time mama, you may not feel much movement until closer to the 20 to 25-week mark. Though many mamas swear they feel that first fetal movement way sooner. Remember: The first hints of movement probably don’t feel the way you’d expect them to—rather than obvious kicks, they more closely resemble flutters or even bubbles.

If this ain’t your first time at the pregnancy rodeo, you may even feel those little kicks as early as 13 weeks pregnant!

In any case, predictable, regular movement doesn’t really happen until closer to 28 weeks pregnant.

Things That Can Prevent You From Feeling Kicks

You may not feel kicks if you’re distracted and not paying close attention. Take the time to slow down and really concentrate on your baby’s movements. If you have an anterior placenta, baby’s movements may be less noticeable. And if you’re carrying extra weight, it may be harder for you to feel baby’s movements until later in the pregnancy.

Towards the end of pregnancy, your baby may rest for 20–75 minutes at a time, so don’t be concerned if you’re not feeling constant movement during the day.

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What Do Baby’s Kicks Feel Like?

Some time around your 12th week of pregnancy, baby will start moving his or her arms and legs around, but they’re too small for you to feel the movements.

At about 16 weeks pregnant, you’ll start to feel butterfly-like flutters. Some women have even mistaken these flutters for gas or hunger pains.

But by 20 weeks pregnant, the kicks have become stronger, and the movements are called “quickening.”

Between 24 weeks and 28 weeks pregnant, those little flutters will have turned into full-blown jabs.

What is Kick Counting?

Kick counting is really simple, and it’s just what it sounds like. You’re counting baby’s kicks and movements to monitor how he or she is doing. Tumbles, kicks, and punches all count, no matter how subtle.

Although those hiccups can be cute, those little bumps don’t count toward kick counts.

Why Should I Count Baby’s Kicks?

Unlike at-home fetal monitoring, kick counting is a safe way to monitor baby’s well-being. It’s such a reliable indicator that studies suggest, in the absence of ultrasound, “fetal movement counting and controlling can be used as a primary screening method to assess fetal health.”

By keeping track of their movements, you’ll also be able to tell when something is off. It’s important to start doing kick counts to establish a pattern of what is normal for your little one. That way, if his or her movements significantly increase or decrease, you’ll be able to tell the difference right away.

Plus, spending that time monitoring and loving on your belly is a great way to bond with your baby!

Should All Moms Kick Count?

Absolutely! Even if you’re not a high-risk pregnancy, the benefits of monitoring fetal movements are still there. In fact, it could even save your baby’s life. It’s an important way to identify potential problems and help to prevent stillbirth.

Your chances of having a stillbirth are 1 in 160, so it’s not as rare as you would think (not to freak you out, but it’s important to know the facts!). Many moms notice all too late that their baby has stopped moving, after little can be done. But if you’re monitoring kick counts and notice a decline in movements, the issue can be monitored immediately. This increases the likelihood that the problem will be caught in time, before a stillbirth or other issue occurs.

How to Do Kick Counts

1. Wait until baby is 28 weeks

Since your baby will be too small to feel much early on in your pregnancy, it’s not recommended to start kick counting until 28 weeks pregnantOnce baby reaches 28 weeks, his/her movements are much more predictable and consistent.

If you’re a high-risk pregnancy or carrying multiples, you’ll want to start doing kick counts a little earlier, at 26 weeks. It’s also recommended to monitor kick counts at the same time every day so that you really start getting a feel for baby’s patterns.

2. Pick the right time of day

Pick the time of day when your little one is more active, which is usually the evening. Don’t put yourself in panic mode by choosing the afternoon if you know your baby is usually resting. Sometimes though, even when they’re normally active at a certain time, your baby may be resting and may need a little more prompting to move around.

3. Assume the position

Get into a comfortable position—either sitting or laying down—preferably on your left side. Relax, and concentrate on feeling your baby move. Don’t try to do this while you’re doing the dishes or out running errands. It’s too easy to get distracted and miss movements, which defeats the whole purpose of this exercise!

4. See how long it takes baby to move 10 times

You want to time how long it takes for your baby to move 10 times. Usually they’ll move 10 times in the span of 30 minutes, however, it may take up to 2 hours.

What’s Normal When Monitoring Kick Counts?

What’s normal for your baby will vary from what’s normal for another. But as a general rule of thumb:

“After 28 weeks the baby should have at least three active periods of movement in a 24 hour period, in each of those active periods the baby should move at least 6 times in a half hour (or 10 movements in an hour). Small, subtle movements also count as movement.” — Cynthia Mason, CNM, APN, MSN

As you’re monitoring kick counts, keep track of them on an app or a printed fetal kick counts tracker like this one. They’re simple and easy to use, and it’s a good way to have a record to show your doctor or midwife—this way you’ll be able to establish a baseline and know what’s normal for your baby.

What Things Make Baby Kick?

When you’re up and about, your movements often lull your baby to sleep. So the best time to track kick counts is when you’re resting. You’re more likely to feel baby kick if:

  • You lay on your left side (for optimal circulation)
  • Eat or drink something, especially if it’s sweet or cold
  • It’s evening
  • You make loud noises, like yell, sing, laugh, or play music
  • It’s between 9 pm and 1 am and you’re not moving much (they’re responding to your declining blood sugar levels)

When Should I Be Worried?

If you can’t feel baby move 10 times within two hours at the usual time, wait an hour and try again.

If you’re still not feeling anything, contact your birth professional right away for further monitoring.

If you don’t feel any movements, your baby may not be getting enough oxygen or nutrients through the placenta.

Your baby’s movements will increase in frequency and intensity as the pregnancy progresses, so also inform your birth team if movements start to weaken or decline. You want to keep them updated if kick counts change drastically from one time to the next.

Final Word on Kick Counts

Counting your baby’s movements is the perfect way for you and your family to bond with your little one. It’s simple, safe, and goes a long way at helping to prevent pregnancy complications, including stillbirths. So take some time out of your day to relax and bond with your baby as you count their movements. You’ll feel more connected to that little nugget long before birth, and it could just save his or her life!