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Why your baby’s movements matter during Pregnancy

Being aware of your baby’s movements during pregnancy is one of the simplest things you can do to help keep your baby safe and healthy. You will start to feel your baby move somewhere between weeks 16 and 24, and they should continue to move right up until you go into labour, and even during labour itself. 

Why your baby’s movements matter

Regular and healthy movements are a good sign of pregnancy wellbeing. If your baby’s movement patterns change, it may be a sign that your baby isn’t well. Around half of all women who had a stillbirth noticed their baby’s movements had slowed down or stopped, according to Movements Matter (a campaign developed by the Centre of Research Excellence in Stillbirth).

How often your baby should move

There is no set number or type of movements, so you should get to know your own baby’s unique pattern of movements. Be particularly aware of your baby’s movements from 28 weeks, which can feel like a kick, a flutter, a swish, or a roll.

How you can get to know your baby’s movements

The following steps are provided as a guide to help you get to know your baby’s movements, which is based on clinical practice guidelines from the Centre of Research Excellence in Stillbirth:

  1. Sit or lie down in a quiet place, try to relax, and focus on feeling your baby’s movements.
  2. It is important to take time to learn the normal pattern of movements for your baby. Ten movements over a two-hour period is often given as an average number of movements for healthy babies. However, research is limited and every baby is different. Some babies are very active, others are not. It’s important to get to know your baby. The easiest way to learn your baby’s normal pattern of movement is to choose a time when your baby is usually active and focus on their movements
  3. You may wish to record each movement you feel, but be mindful of any changes in strength of the movements as well as the number.
  4. If you are still concerned about your baby’s movements after doing this, contact your doctor of midwife that very day or night. Your doctor of midwife might suggest that you take some time to focus on movements, so let your doctor of midwife know that you have already done this. You do not have to wait until the end of the suggested recording period of 2 hours to contact them.

Common myths about baby movements

  1. It’s a myth that babies’ movements slow down or become weaker towards the end of pregnancy. Babies don’t ‘run out of room’ and they’re not ‘slowing down to get ready for the birth’.
  2. It’s a myth that having something to eat or drink will stimulate your baby. This doesn’t work if your baby’s unwell. 

What to do if you notice a change

When a baby is unwell, he or she may try to save energy by slowing down their movements. This can be the first sign of a problem. If your baby’s movements lessen, change in frequency or strength, or stop, tell your doctor or midwife immediately. Don’t ever delay, whether it’s day or night. Don’t feel like you’re being overly worried, and be rest-assured that you’ll never be wasting your healthcare provider’s time if you have any concerns at all about your baby’s health. 

What may happen next

Your doctor or midwife should suggest you come into hospital (staff are available 24/7 in the maternity unit). Your doctor or midwife will ask you some questions about known risk factors, then they will check your baby’s heartbeat, measure your baby’s growth, and feel your belly to see where your baby is positioned. You may then have an ultrasound scan, and perhaps a blood test. 

Movements really do matter. It’s important to get to know your baby’s movements so that you can be confident that everything is okay.

Every pregnancy is different and there is no ‘right’ pattern of movement. Not only will you be keeping your baby safe and healthy, but getting to know your baby’s movements is also an important and enjoyable bonding opportunity. 

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