The first trimester of pregnancy is generally accompanied by feelings of uncertainty and anxiety. This is mainly due to minimal visible growth of the tummy and not yet feeling your baby move inside the womb. The discomforts of pregnancy such as morning sickness, food aversions or cravings and breast tenderness due to the changing hormones are often some early signs that are comforting for expectant mothers to reflect a healthy and progressing pregnancy.
When women do experience the first flutters of baby moving inside their tummy, it is no surprise that this moment provides instant relief. Baby movements are often the most exciting and reassuring time in pregnancy and may enhance the bond that is felt towards the baby. Quickening is the term used to describe the first movements or fluttery sensations felt by mothers. This is often experienced between 15-25 weeks’ gestation. Mothers that have birthed before often feel their baby moving earlier than first time mothers due to prior knowledge, expectations and learned experience. First pregnancies are a huge learning curve as mothers are unsure of what to expect. Is my baby moving or is it just wind are questions commonly asked? It is very likely that baby movements have been felt earlier, however mothers are doubtful until it is too obvious to ignore, and it is known with absolute certainty. In all four of my pregnancies, each of my babies had different movement patterns inside the womb. First movements were felt with baby number one at 21 weeks, baby number two at 19 weeks, baby number three at 17 weeks and baby four at 15 weeks’ gestation. When movements are first felt in the early weeks, these flutters, kicks, rolls, or swishes remain irregular in nature. It is important to note that your baby is still very small and its position within the uterus may influence movement nature. Some days you may feel your baby move more than others or there may be times when bub is doing cartwheels on the inside, but you are unable to feel it on the outside.
As your baby grows and your pregnancy progresses, movements will become more regular, distinct, and frequent. The growing uterus and flourishing baby development will make movements more obvious and family members will be able to see and touch these visible movements. This is such an exciting time to share and makes the pregnancy more real to others. I loved seeing the priceless reactions and pure joy from my husband and children. Remember to record these precious moments so you can reminisce and share them with your baby in the years to come.
Mothers will begin to recognise a pattern with baby movements that may include common active and sleeping periods. Some babies may be active of a morning for instance and quieter in the evening, active constantly or some may just have subtle but obvious movements all day. Many mothers have hectic schedules that may impact maternal awareness of movements. First time mothers typically work later into the pregnancy and expectant mothers with children may be balancing work life plus running around after a toddler all day. Busy mothers may therefore not recognise movements when they are occurring until they adopt positions of rest. This was the case in my fourth pregnancy with my hectic work life and family commitments. I would feel subtle movements throughout the day, but the most active time was always lying on the couch after the three kids were in bed. It was the time I was at complete rest watching television with my husband unwinding for the day, the time I was most in tune with my body and hence baby number four wanted her time to shine!
Baby movements are a good indicator of health and wellbeing. The pattern of movement is essential for each mother to recognise and identify. Never compare yourself to someone else and their experience or to a previous pregnancy. Your normal will be different to someone else’s normal. Recognising individual unique behaviours encourages you to be in tune with your baby. When you know your baby’s own movement pattern, it allows prompt identification if movements change, reduce, or stop altogether. Often, if there is a concern with your baby’s wellbeing, a reduction in movement is typically the first sign observed and disclosed. This can be due to an unwell baby conserving energy by reducing its movements. As midwives, we cannot stress enough the importance of discussing any concerns with your health care provider immediately. Never wait until the morning or future appointments if you are apprehensive about a reduction or change in your baby’s movements. Maternity units are open 24/7 so regardless of the time, call to have your baby assessed. Always trust your maternal instincts and gut feelings.
Tips to remember:
- Baby movements are a good indicator of health and wellbeing.
- They can be described as a flutter, kick, swish or roll. You will start to feel movements between week 15 and 25, regardless of where your placenta is located.
- There is no set number of normal movements. You should get to know your baby’s individual pattern.
- Each baby’s movement pattern is unique. Learning your baby’s pattern helps you to know that your baby is well and recognise if something has changed.
- It is not true that babies move less towards the end of pregnancy or in labour. You should continue to feel your baby move. Having something to eat or drink to stimulate your baby does not work.
- You know your baby best.
- If you are concerned about your baby’s movements, contact your health professional immediately. Maternity units are available 24 hours, 7 days a week if needed.