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Fetal Kick Counts

During pregnancy, sometime between week 18 and week 24, most women begin to notice a fluttering (called quickening) in their bellies. These early signs of fetal movement may at first be confused as simply gas, but actually your growing baby is rocking and rolling inside your belly! She’s been moving around for awhile, but an important milestone has now passed: She’s big enough for you to finally feel her calisthenics!

Movement is a big bonding moment for you and your baby, too. Now you and your partner can feel that little life growing inside you. And with this comes an important pregnancy practice: fetal kick counts.

Fetal movement is a reassuring sign that your baby is growing and developing right on track.

Editor’s Note: Don’t worry if you’re past 24 weeks and not yet feeling fetal movement. Every pregnancy is different, and as long as your doctor is hearing normal heart sounds at your regular appointments, you shouldn’t worry. If you are nervous or concerned, be sure to speak with your doctor about how to best track your baby’s fetal movements.

What Are Fetal Kick Counts?

Your baby’s movements are changing and evolving. Those little flutters you once felt are getting stronger and more organized. Pretty soon little tickles turn into sharp, even uncomfortable, kicks and jabs!

If you’re feeling movement with some regular patterns, it is a good idea to begin counting kicks. Your doctor may ask you about fetal movement during your seventh month of pregnancy, and if you’re experience a high-risk pregnancy, chances are your doctor will ask you to begin tracking fetal movement around week 28.

Once you notice those robust jabs and kicks, try to decipher when you most feel the movement: Is it after you first get up in the morning? After you’ve eaten a meal? In the late morning or late afternoon, when your blood sugar dips? Or is it after you’ve done some physical activity and finally sat down to rest?

Taking time to register these movements is a great way for you to bond with your baby and check in on his well-being.

How to Count

Every doctor has a slightly different way of tracking Baby’s movement, so be sure to check in with your OB to find out how he or she prefers you count kicks.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG ) recommends that you find a quiet and comfortable spot to sit (or lie down on your left side, which is optimal for providing your baby proper blood and oxygen circulation) and perform a kick count at least once a day from your seventh month of pregnancy until you deliver.

Try doing the test 20 minutes after eating and see how long it takes the baby to move (kick, flutter, swish, or roll) 10 times.

Again, you should feel your baby move 10 times in about two hours. “If it takes longer than four hours, it is a good idea to call your doctor,” suggests Dr. Gerard M. DiLeo, MD, BabyZone’s board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist.

By the way, if this is your second (or third or fourth!) pregnancy, chances are you’ll notice Baby moving around much earlier. (Some women profess to feel movement as early as week 12!)

When to Call Your Doctor

The ACOG recommends that if you’ve not felt 10 kicks by the end of the second hour of counting, you wait a few hours and then try to count again. After the second session, if you’ve not felt 10 movements within two hours, contact your healthcare provider right away.

You should also make a call to your doctor if you notice a big change in your baby’s movement patterns over the course of three to four days. (For example, if you’ve noticed that your baby has been very active after breakfast or right before you go to bed each day for several weeks, but then quiets down considerably for three to four days, you should mention the pattern change to your doctor.)

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