Fetal movements

When will I start to feel fetal movements?

Most women start to feel fetal movements around 18-20 weeks (although it can be later for first-time mums).

Women often describe the first sensations as “flutters” or “bubbles.”

What are normal fetal movements?

Your baby will rapidly find a daily pattern.  You will get to know what feels normal for your baby and what feels abnormal.  There is no magic number of movements – it’s about what feels usual for your baby.

Movements start off as flutters, but as baby grows larger and stronger the movements will include kicks, swishes and rolls.

It’s normal for the baby to have busy periods and quiet periods within the same day.  Basically, baby has periods of sleep –  just like a newborn does.  It will be quiet during these sleep sessions, but should then wake up and return to normal activity.  Sleep periods usually last 20 – 40 minutes; they do not usually last longer than 90 minutes in a healthy fetus.

Why do we worry about reduced fetal movements?

Decreased fetal movements can be a sign of a serious problem such as growth restriction, silent bleeding, infection and stillbirth.  Seek medical advice promptly if you have reduced movements.

It’s actually not uncommon to have an episode of reduced movement during your pregnancy.  70% of pregnancies with a single episode of reduced fetal movements are uncomplicated.  However, we need to identify the at-risk babies.  We can only do this by checking every woman with reduced movements.  The type of check will depend on how many weeks you are and other factors in your history.

What do I do if I have reduced fetal movements?

Please call your doctor, midwife or the Birth Suite of your booked hospital for advice.  Reduced fetal movements need to checked out without delay.

It’s an old wives’ tale that movements decrease in the final weeks before the due date.  Any decrease in movements should prompt you to seek medical advice.

What if I’ve been busy and I don’t know what baby has been doing?

It’s inevitable that some days you will be busy and distracted by life!  Suddenly, you realise that you’re uncertain about baby’s movements.

Find a quiet place with no distractions – no books, TV or music.  Lie on your left side and focus on your baby.  Monitor the movements for a while.  If you quickly find that baby is moving normally, that’s great.  However, if baby is moving less than usual, call the Birth Suite.

My baby has hiccups – is that good or bad?

Fetal hiccups are considered a normal and reassuring sign.

There is some old, outdated information floating around on the internet suggesting that fetal hiccups are a sign of a problem.  This is not correct (it came from studies of sheep!).

There is good evidence that women who feel regular fetal hiccups are less likely to have a stillbirth.

As always, this information is intended for general educational purposes only. It is not medical advice. Please discuss any medical issues with a doctor. Read our full medical disclaimer here.