Get to know your baby’s pattern of kicks, and you’ll be able to monitor his wellbeing, know if he’s awake or asleep, and even figure out if he likes Corrie…
Meet the expert: Anna Nella is a midwife and works for the charity Tommy’s, which funds research into pregnancy problems (tommys.org).
If you’re in your second trimester, that fizzing, bubbling sensation in your tummy could be your baby’s first kicks.
Feeling your baby move for the first time is a moment that you’ll never forget. As well as being an emotional experience that bonds you to your baby, his kicks can help you monitor how he’s doing – and even how he is feeling.
The precious first kick
When you feel the first kick will depend on whether you’re a first-time mum or if you’ve had a baby before.
‘If this is your first baby, research suggests it’s between 15-22 weeks of pregnancy,’ says midwife Anna Nella. ‘The Royal College of Obstetricians says most women are aware of movement by 18-20 weeks.
‘But if this is your second baby, then you could feel the movement a little earlier.’
With such a wide window, it can be easy to miss those first kicks, especially if you’re not sure what to expect. And don’t forget that your baby is still only around 12cm long at this stage.
‘It’s a fleeting internal fizz that’s gone before you can even acknowledge it,’ says Anna. ‘It’s like bubbles or the feeling you get before you’re about to pass wind. It’s normal to not feel the sensation again for days or even a week or two.’
Get to know the pattern of your baby’s kicks
As his kicks get stronger, this feeling will change from a little fizz to full-blown champagne cork popping.
And soon you’ll start to notice certain times when your baby is particularly active. So, after a busy day at work, when you’re on the journey home, you might find your baby has a party in your tummy.
According to research, the peak time for a baby’s movement is during the afternoon and evening.
‘When you relax, you won’t be using up as much of your oxygen, and your baby is likely to have a kick-about then,’ says Anna.
However, it might be that your baby is an early bird and kicks most first thing in the morning.
The key thing is that you get to know your baby’s pattern of movement through the day.
How many times should your baby kick?
While mums used to be told that around 10 kicks within a two-hour period was ‘normal’, medical experts are now moving away from this advice.
‘Don’t focus on a certain number of kicks per hour,’ says Anna. ‘Focus instead on what is the normal pattern for your baby.’ Keep track of how this pattern develops. If it changes, contact your midwife.
Don’t compare the number of kicks you feel with your pregnant friends, though.
‘It’s a bit like the size of your bump,’ says Anna, ‘there’s just no point making comparisons with other pregnant women.’ Now is not the time to get competitive!
Where is your baby kicking?
You will feel his kicks most when they’re directed towards the front or side of your belly.
‘If your placenta is at the front of your belly, then that could affect your perception of the movements,’ says Anna.
‘The placenta will cushion his kicks, and you might feel them less. Your 20-week scan will show the position of your placenta, and if this is the case, you’ll need to tune into your baby’s individual pattern and focus on feeling his kicks on the sides or lower part of your abdomen.’
From 32 weeks, you’ll start to be able to figure out your baby’s pattern of sleeping from his pattern of kicks.
‘And his sleep pattern won’t match yours,’ says Anna. ‘When you go to bed, this could be the time your baby wakes up and starts really kicking.’
And if he regularly wakes you at three in the morning by doing some disco dancing, does this mean he is going to be a night owl once he's born?
‘Anecdotally, I’ve heard there is a correlation between the time the baby is usually kicking, and the time he’s awake when he’s born,’ says Anna. ‘Some of his patterns from being in your belly will take time to change or develop after he is born.’
Monitor your baby’s movements
Now you know when he’s usually busiest, you can use this to stay on top of how he's getting on.
‘All babies are really active and energetic, and they move a lot in pregnancy,’ says Anna. ‘It’s a sign they’re getting lots of oxygen and that the placenta is working really well.
‘And a change in the pattern of this movement can help alert you to a possible problem. If you think your baby hasn’t moved when he normally would have, or there’s a reduction in number or intensity of kicks, then it’s wise to check he’s OK.
‘On the front of your midwife notes will be the name of your maternity assessment unit. Give them a call immediately.
‘There are all sorts of reasons why your baby might be kicking less. It could be something so simple as your stress levels, which can make you less aware of how much your baby is moving.
‘We’d much rather women came in and saw us straight away, so we can give them a full antenatal check and reassure them that everything’s fine. And if there is a problem, then we can help.’
Let your midwife know too if you notice a sudden increase in the number or intensity of your baby’s kicks.
‘Your baby might move more than normal after a meal, thanks to the surge in your blood sugar,’ says Anna. ‘Sex and coffee can also make him kick more, but if he’s suddenly really active for no reason, then call the maternity unit.’
Make this a bonding time
Get your partner involved in helping you keep track of your baby’s kicks too.
The moment the outline of a foot or elbow appears on your belly is often the first time your pregnancy feels really real to Daddy.
Your baby will recognise your partner’s voice and respond to it, so get him to put his hands on your bump while he chats to him.
Kicks Count charity
Want to know even more about your baby’s kicks and what they can tell you? Head online to kickscount.org.uk, the website of a charity that aims to empower mums with knowledge and confidence throughout their pregnancy.
Download the Kicks Count app for free at kickscount.org.uk/app
This clever app will help you keep track of your baby’s kicks. Log his kicks with the easy-to-use kicker button, and the graphics show the pattern of his movements.
The best position to feel your baby kick
The best way to feel your baby kick is to lie down on your left side. This position allows your body to have maximum circulation, which can lead to your baby being more active.
Does your baby like TV?
From 32 weeks, your baby might kick more in response to familiar music. ‘If you watch a TV show every day, you might notice that it’s your baby’s favourite too, and he’ll kick more because he recognises the sounds coming from the TV,’ says Anna.
Three ways to encourage kicks
- Drink a pint of icy cold water. The coldness should wake up your baby, and the extra pressure in your bladder will make it easier to feel him.
- Gently massage your bump – or get your partner to do it. Your baby will react to touch from 28 weeks, so he might even push back!
- Have a long, relaxing bath to get you more in tune with your baby’s movements. It’s fun to watch the ripples your baby’s kicks make too.
How your baby’s kicks change
From those first flutters, your baby will develop his kicks into powerful movements that can, quite literally, take your breath away.
‘At the first 12-week scan, it’s amazing to see your baby doing somersaults and bouncing off the walls of your womb, while you don’t feel a thing,’ says Anna.
‘But as he gets bigger, and his muscles develop and his soft skeleton turns into bone, those movements become more definite. He’ll punch, push, kick and turn like a little astronaut.’
Most women feel their baby’s first movement between 14 and 22 weeks, although it will be faint at first. If you haven’t felt your baby kick by 24 weeks, let your midwife know.
Your baby now reacts to touch, and his heart rate increases when he hears a noise. ‘His hearing is developing, so you might notice he responds to a loud noise and might even jump,’ says Anna.
You’ll start to see his limbs from the outside – perhaps a heel or a foot pushing up on your belly. This helps you and your partner bond with him. Every so often you will feel a mini earthquake as he changes position.
His movements will have been increasing up until this stage, but from now they’ll stay around the same level. Contrary to what you might have heard, they won’t reduce at all from now on.
Space is increasingly limited, and the muscles in your uterus and tummy will help keep your baby in one place, but you’ll feel just as many kicks. ‘He should have picked his position of head up or head down by now, and his kicks can tell you which,’ says Anna.
‘If he’s breech with his bottom in your pelvis, you might feel sharp headbutts rather than kicks.’ As he won’t be rolling over as often, you may notice a persistent kick underneath your ribs on one side or the other.
Your baby will continue to move and kick while you are in labour.