Quickening in Pregnancy. When Can You Feel the Baby Move?

It’s the question that’s on just about every mama’s mind when they’re in the first trimester: When will I feel my baby move?

Fact is, there are no hard rules about when you’ll feel your baby move.

Also known as quickening, feeling 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.

But first, why is it called “quickening”?

Where does the term Quickening come from?

Historically, quickening, or first fetal movement, has been one signal for the beginning of life in the womb (the term “quick” meaning “alive”).

In the 18th century, William Blackstone, a legal scholar, described quickening, or movement, as the beginning of life:

“Life… begins in contemplation of law as soon as an infant is able to stir in the mother’s womb.”

He explained that fetal movement was viewed as a marker of life for a child in a legal sense, to protect the child and mother legally if anything were to happen to the unborn child or pregnant woman. Though people have many different views of when life begins, quickening has historically been one marker in a legal sense.

Why does baby move?

Movement is a normal part of your baby’s development. Most movements are practice for life outside the womb. Baby practices using her lungs by “breathing” amniotic fluid. She also exercises her muscles and stretches.

Some movements are a response to external stimuli, like light or sound. Others are curiosity movements, like, “Hey, this arm thing in front of me just moved. I wonder if I can make it do that agai… Woah, freaky!”

Some babies have been caught (on ultrasound) playing with their umbilical cords; sometimes they even “walk” on the inside of the uterus in preparation for making their first journey from mom’s abdomen to her breast (which is why skin to skin is so important!).

When can you feel the baby move?

When will you feel quickening in pregnancy? Well, the easy and vague answer is: sometime 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 sooner.

Why do experienced moms notice baby move sooner? Two reasons.

  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 it 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.

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. With my first pregnancy, my placenta was posterior (more common), so I could really feel Griffin’s kicks and jabs. With my second pregnancy, I had an anterior placenta (meaning it laid on the outfacing side of my belly) and Paloma’s movements were muffled as a result.

Will it hurt if/when 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 painful. If you notice pain, contact your healthcare provider.

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 start monitoring… especially when you reach week 20 and beyond.

How to monitor fetal movement in pregnancy

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 baby is most active then anyway (this won’t be the last time your little bundle of joy keeps you up at night, promise).

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that you look for 10 movements within 2 hours. It usually won’t take this long. 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.

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.

With my first pregnancy, my son Griffin was a pretty busy baby. But one day, I couldn’t feel him move for a few hours in the morning. My husband and I were on vacation—a long way away from our midwife’s clinic—and I was feeling anxious. I ended up chugging a glass of OJ, and sure enough, the blood sugar spike roused my baby from his deep slumber about 20 minutes later, and he started moving like crazy.

Griffin continues to be a deep sleeper to this day—and a great lover of orange juice too. 🙂

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 Dr. 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 from the nurses desk. 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. Weigh the risks and benefits of a baby ultrasound before deciding what to do.

When will my partner be able to feel the baby move from the outside?

It’s the classic Hollywood moment: your partner has his hand on your belly, and all of a sudden… jab, jab, jab, right hook! Your partner’s eyes light up, you two melt in an embrace, and this life that is inside of you has just become all the more real and wondrous for both of you.

You can expect this to happen somewhere between 20 and 30 weeks. Women who are overweight may have to wait longer for movement to be noticeable from the outside.

As baby gets bigger, his movements will get bigger and may take your breath away! From the outside, you may notice your belly moving and contorting with your baby’s movements (another iconic Hollywood moment—this time from Aliens).

alien_baby Aliens movie baby moving sigourney weaver

However, as you near delivery, baby will have less space to move around, so his movements may not be as wild.

Fetal movement by trimester

If you’re looking for a quick guide to when you should feel fetal movement in pregnancy, here it is 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, you will definitely be noticing hiccups and baby kicks and stretches. You will probably even know what baby 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!

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!

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30 Comments

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  1. Hello ..
    This is my first pregnancy and I started to feel my little angel in week 18,
    But yesterday I had a very bad pain for like ten minutes, was praying so hard worried but after that I was oky , I wanted to ask if its normal to hav such pain ,
    Now my pregnancy is 19 weeks.

  2. I am currently 12 weeks, as of yesterday, with my 5th bundle of joy. My first 3, sadly, are angels . I do have a beautiful, intelligent and completely humble precious little boy who just turned a year old on April, 6th. 2017. I’ve been freaking out cause I felt my son first move on the inside at 13 weeks and at 17 weeks and 3 days on the outside. I could watch him press out on my belly and everything by then. I still have felt anything with this one, and it scares me. I’m probably just over thinking and over reacting, at least I hope I am. I just figured I’d feel this one move sooner then him, even if it is only a week. I thought I felt a movement about 10 minutes ago but really don’t wanna get my hopes up and I can’t really remember exactly how it felt with my son the first time. Just a bit ago I was laying own flat on my back and could have swore I felt a little “knot” pop up then go away but couldn’t figure out if it was a muscle balling up or my baby doll moving. Any advice or input on what anyone thinks would b highly appreciated and took into great consideration.

    • Sorry, I had to fix the word be** in my last comment because my phone accidently erased the e. Lol.

    • 12 weeks would be really early to feel movement. I know it’s hard but, give it time ❤️

  3. Im a first time mom and noticed baby move around 20 weeks and possibly earlier. Im 27 weeks now and he moves all the time. So fun to feel and wonder what he is doing in there. Cant wait until i can tell what and body parts are.

  4. I’ll never forget when I felt my daughter move during our labor she was always very busy my angel she passed August 19th 2018 at only 3 months and 28 days old she passed in her sleep still waiting to find out why I lost my princess my heart and soul??❤?

    • So sorry to hear. My thoughts and prayers go out to you.

  5. This pregnancy I felt baby jump as early as 8-9weeks. I knew for sure that it was her, by the 12th and 14th week. The jumps were always around the same time and became more consistent. She would do this movement that felt like she was straightening a bow tie. Left and right wiggle. She is still very busy and active as I enter my 3rd term. Seems like she has been flexing out/trying her new found strength lately. With my Son on the other hand, I didn’t feel anything until 15-16weeks. 18weeks on the regular. My kids were on the early side for me feeling movement, my friend didn’t feel anything until 20week, my cousin 22wks. Everyone is different.

  6. During one pregnancy the first movement I felt was around 9 wks. This time my husband&I both felt baby (on the outside) at 16.5wks!

  7. Am joy ,,am 1 month pregnant and I got surprised today when I saw my umbilical cord moving up and down its doing strange movements..is it not tooo early for that? Or is it normal?or something is not okay? Need help

  8. I am 15 weeks today and I could swear I felt my baby move this afternoon! It felt like tumbling very low in my belly. Now that I think of it, I may have been having these tumbling sensations for a few days now. This is my second pregnancy, so I was expecting to feel movement sooner, but this early surprised me! Anyone else feel baby as early as 15 weeks?

  9. I remember when my daughter moved around at night mostly.

  10. I remember it being 18 weeks and I was so excited to feel some strong movements! My husband started feeling it at 20 weeks & now we just pause to watch every moment he moves. These days won’t last forever hey?

  11. Hi I’m 19weeks today and been waiting to feel my baby girl but nothing yet. This is my first after TTC for 4 years. I have pcos. I will find out where my placenta is at in cuple days at my ultrasound for 18-20 weeks. I’m really hoping its not were I won’t be able to feel much only because I already worry to much. With me haven pcos this may be out only baby.

  12. My first born would celebrate every night when I finally got out of work and flopped into my recliner. He went wild. Made using my belly for a tv tray pretty difficult but still reassuring. 9 hours on my feet running noisy machinery was stressful enough without the people working under me. My little guy sure made it worth it with his shenanigans each night.

  13. I had an anterior placenta with both of my pregnancies so I didn’t get to feel as much movement. I loved the movements I got to feel and it was scary several times that I didn’t feel like I felt as much; we had a few NST’s to check in both pregnancies. I felt silly being worried about it and that my Dr. would make me feel like I was crazy. However I have a cousin that lost a baby at 38/39 weeks and I couldn’t handle not knowing if the baby was ok. I was their ONLY advocate and that would help to put my mind at ease when I felt like a crazy person calling the Dr. But there were several time on ultrasound that the baby would be moving and kicking and I had no idea, confirming that I was not feeling much of their movement. Be sure to advocate for yourselves and your babies. Blessings to those who have had loss, I am so sorry.

    • I had an anterior placenta too and couldn’t feel most of my son’s movements either. It was nerve wracking! It wasn’t until I saw baby on the ultrasound moving, but couldn’t feel it, that I could relax about it (a little bit).

  14. My son I felt at 18 weeks, he was the classic bubbling fishy feeling, very gentle. He’s still such a gentle little boy at 9. My daughter on the other hand I felt at 12 weeks as jabs, the doctor didn’t believe me, but I could point out exactly where she was on the left side of my uterus and he confirmed with the Doppler. She is a feisty little ball of energy and I knew she was gonna have her father’s strength from that day forward. Even he, a seasoned construction worker is amazed at how strong she is. The funny thing is, she was full term and only 4.5lbs, so she was a minuscule little thing at 12 weeks making such a ruckus.

  15. With my first child I started noticing a pattern of her movements around 22 weeks. Everyone told me just to enjoy but not pay much attention. That until the third trimester it wasn’t important. I wish I had never been told that because at 24 weeks I went 2 days without movement and didn’t call a dr bc it wasn’t “important”. My daughter had passed and I had to deliver her stillborn. I was 21 years old.
    My second child I felt at 20 weeks and paid attention everyday. Going to he hospital or calling a dr whenever I was worried, better safe than sorry. Now with my third he is a crazy wriggler and I’ve only had a scare once and I’m almost due!

    • I’m so sorry for your loss. I was reassured by several mom’s that babies run out of space in the third trimester and move much less. I wish I had trusted my gut sooner when my son began moving much less. My beautiful boy passed during a non stress test, stillborn at 38+5 two and a half months ago. You are not alone on your journey.

      • I am so sorry moms 🙁 I lost my daughter at 32 weeks. It was my second and I thought bc I was moving so much that day that she was just sleeping.
        I wish I had paid attention more to the movements and ignored people telling me that they don’t move much in the 3rd trimester (that’s a vicious old wives tale!)
        I will definitely be a nut case about movements with this rainbow pregnancy!

        • Wow I’m surprised to see all the mommys of stillborns commenting! I wish people didn’t tell me that baby’s movements slowed down during the last trimester and to count baby’s kicks! We lost our little angel nevaeh at 37 weeks. Thankfully we do have 2 beautiful babies here on earth with us. Count those kicks mamas and don’t be afraid to call your midwife/dr.!

          • I was 27 weeks and went into the drs asking for an ultrasound because my little one stopped moving as much. The dr did the fetal doppler and told me I was just a worried first time mom and there wasn’t a need for an ultrasound. I went home still uneasy. The next day I went to pay for an ultrasound at those cute little places. The tech couldn’t find a heart beat..my little boy passed away and we found I had low amniotic fluid. Since then I always demand and stick to my instincts as a mom.

    • My heart is breaking hearing about your losses. So sorry to hear. I will update post and be sure to stress counting kicks as early as 20 weeks. Bless you all.

  16. Perfect timing! I just felt my baby for the first time at 16 weeks just last week. My pregnancy before this I first felt the baby a day shy of 16 weeks. So around 16 weeks is normal for me. I can’t remember on my first pregnancy, though 🙂
    I just had an appt with my midwife today and she said “oh that’s pretty early!” I love the peace of mind of feeling that little wiggle.

      • I lost two pregnancy and then Yahweh blessed me with my Jonah!
        It’s hard to deal with loss sometimes but Yahweh is with you.
        All you have to do is ask for His comfort and He is there!
        Praise Yahshua for babies!
        With my first child he moved pretty often.
        He even kicked a remote off my belly.
        I was sure I felt him flip at fourteen weeks!

        • Alicia, praying all is well with you and Jonah! Thank you for your post, especially for the encouraging words about Yahweh and his comforting arm. I so needed that right now. Not feeling very loved by hubby, and things are tough. I had pcos, but believed I was healed and now 22 weeks with first child. Thank you all who have posted about loss. May Yahweh heal your hurt and grant you multiple miracles. Blessings. Shalom.

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