It’s the question that’s on just about every mama’s mind when they’re in the first trimester: When will I feel the baby move? Fact is, there are no hard rules. Also known as quickening, when you can feel the baby move happens at different times for each mama. Here’s what to expect for fetal movement in your pregnancy, as well as what’s normal, what’s not, and what to do about it.

When Can You Feel the Baby Move?

When will you feel quickening in pregnancy? The easy and vague answer is: Some time between 16 weeks and 25 weeks.

When exactly you notice those first fetal movements varies from mama to mama and pregnancy to pregnancy:

  • First-time moms may not notice movement until closer to 25 weeks, or may not know for sure if what they’re feeling is really a baby.
  • Experienced moms tend to notice fetal movement sooner.

Why do experienced moms notice baby move sooner?

  1. They already know the difference between baby movement and other internal rumblings.
  2. Women, who have carried babies before, have more relaxed uterine muscles, and therefore their uteruses are more sensitive to movement.

What Does If Feel Like When Baby Moves During Pregnancy?

  • Some women describe it as the fluttering of a butterfly or an angel’s wing.
  • Others feel quickening as a tumbling or twitching sensation.
  • And still others think it feels like bubbles or gas.

Keep in mind that the fundal (top of the uterus) height is still relatively low when quickening happens, so pay attention to your lower abdomen for signs of fetal movement.

As you move into your second and third trimesters, you’ll notice movements more often and may even have a good idea of what body parts are making those jabs!

Keep in mind that the placement of your placenta will also influence your ability to feel baby’s movement.

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Fetal Movement By Trimester

Here’s a quick guide to fetal movement by trimester:

First trimester

Your baby will start to move around week 8, but you won’t feel it that early. In fact, you probably won’t feel it at all during the first trimester.

Second trimester

You may notice early fluttering movements, but you will likely be unsure if they are your baby or something else.

As you move through the second trimester, you will begin to feel baby movement for reals. You may even begin to feel baby hiccups, which feel like repetitive, rhythmic bumps, or like popcorn popping.

Third trimester

In the third trimester, your partner should be able to feel baby moving. And you will definitely be noticing hiccups and baby kicks and stretches. You will probably even know what body parts are making which movements. Massive kick to your ribs? That’s a leg. Judo chop to your belly? That’s an arm.

You will begin to notice baby’s position, and you may be able to play games with baby. Push on his or her foot and s/he may kick you back!

Will It Hurt If/When the Baby is Moving?

Quickening is such a small, gentle movement that it can’t hurt you. But this may change as your pregnancy continues. As baby gets larger, particularly in the last few weeks of pregnancy, you may notice discomfort when baby moves. And yes, it may even hurt a bit when your little karate master gives you a big judo chop to the ribs or bladder.

But pain is the exception, not the rule. Mostly, baby movement is just a curious pressure—and a joyful one. Many moms say that the movement in their womb helps them feel more connected to baby.

When baby flips to a head-down position (sometime in the last few weeks of pregnancy), you may notice a stretching feeling that can be intense but shouldn’t be too painful. If you notice pain, contact your healthcare provider as a precaution.

Should I Be Monitoring and Keeping Track of Baby’s Movement?

In the early part of your pregnancy, you will begin to notice movement but won’t notice every movement, so there is no reason to monitor.

As you start to identify what baby movement feels like, you can and should start monitoring… especially when you reach week 25 and beyond. Studies show that fetal movement monitoring can be a very effective way to determine your baby’s health in utero.

How to Monitor Fetal Movement in Pregnancy

For more detailed information about fetal movement, check out our kick count post, but here’s a quick recap on how to do it:

  1. Find a comfortable place to rest. Sitting or laying down are both fine. Choose a time when your baby is most active (usually in the evening). Some moms choose to count when they are laying down for bed, since it’s easy to detect baby’s movement when you are still.
  2. Start counting any rolls, punches, kicks or movements from baby. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that you look for 10 movements within 2 hours. Some practitioners want more activity (more on that below).
  3. If you haven’t felt 10 movements in that time frame, drink some juice or eat some dark chocolate to give baby a little boost of glucose, and then count again. You can gently push on your belly where you feel the baby to get her to wake up and start moving too.

To be more proactive and conservative, you want to feel even more movement than ACOG’s recommendations…

“After 28 weeks the baby should have at least 3 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

Keep in mind that the number of kicks per hour is not as important as understanding your baby’s schedule and noting when something is different. For example, if baby is always active at bed time, and one night isn’t active at all, it might be a good time to count kicks and call your provider to be sure baby is ok.

What if I don’t Feel Baby Moving?

Don’t panic. Baby may just be very sleepy, or perhaps all of her movements happened while you were busy with an older child and you didn’t notice them. Likely, your baby is fine. However, call your midwife or doctor immediately to be safe.

What Will a Midwife or Doctor Do if Baby’s Not Moving Often?

Your midwife or doctor might give you some instructions for getting baby moving. If this doesn’t work, your midwife or doctor may ask you to go in to the hospital to be monitored. At the hospital, they will give you a non-stress test and monitor baby’s movements, heart rate, and any contractions. They may offer you some juice to get baby moving.

If the monitoring looks good, you can probably go home. If it shows any possible issues, they may want to use an ultrasound to check baby.

How About You?

When did YOU first feel your baby move? How often did baby move during pregnancy? What did it feel like? Share with us in the comments below!