Kick Counts: How To Track & Why It's Necessary - Baby Chick
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Kick Counts: How To Track & Why It’s Necessary

Fetal kick counts are essential to your pregnancy. Understand when and why to start and tips to stimulate kicks in utero.

Published August 15, 2023

by Danielle Rush

Labor & Delivery and Postpartum nurse

Medically reviewed by Kristy Goodman

Obstetrician-Gynecologist Physician Assistant, MS, MPH, PA-C
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Finally feeling your sweet little one move while in utero is one of pregnancy’s most memorable and cherished experiences. Fetal movement often makes all the ligament aches, the body stretch, and the emotional lability of pregnancy fade away. The sensation is reassurance that your baby is growing in strength and size. But monitoring your baby’s fetal kick counts and knowing when to start kick counts is especially important in the third trimester.

Kick counts will become part of your daily routine, but what is kick counting, and why is it important to monitor? What should you do if your baby is not moving? Are there purposeful ways to try and make your baby move in utero?

What Do Fetal Kicks Feel Like?

You may be anxiously awaiting your baby’s first kicks in utero. Historically called “quickening,” the first baby movements are generally felt between 16 and 22 weeks of pregnancy. The first fetal movements can be described as fluttering or popping gas bubbles.2

Previously pregnant parents may feel the baby’s activity earlier, around 16 weeks, while first-time expectant parents may not discern movement until 20 to 22 weeks. Your healthcare provider, partner, or others may be able to feel your baby move externally around 20 weeks of pregnancy.2

Occasionally, an anterior placenta that develops on the front uterine wall may make it more challenging to feel your baby twist and turn. Your obstetric provider can determine the location of your placenta with an ultrasound. Additionally, obesity may decrease your ability to feel fetal movement.2,5

What Is Kick Counting During Pregnancy?

Kick counting assesses your unborn baby’s movements. You can do this virtually anywhere, at any time. A healthy baby should kick, move, or roll several times within an hour.

Why Are Kick Counts Necessary?

Fetal activity is a positive sign of pregnancy and indicates a baby’s well-being. Tracking your baby’s movements does not always prevent complications. But this non-invasive monitoring is a reassurance of your baby’s health and may reduce the likelihood of stillbirth.1,2

When To Start Kick Counts

Monitoring your baby’s movements becomes vital during the third trimester, around 28 weeks. Additionally, getting to know your little one’s movements may increase bonding and promote feelings of connectedness. Get your partner involved as well! Feeling and watching the baby move will allow them to connect with their child in utero.4

How To Count Kicks

Kick counts are best performed around the same time each day, preferably after a meal. But they really can be performed at any time. You may lie down and relax, allowing you to better detect the baby’s movement. After some practice and focus, many pregnant people find they can subconsciously monitor their baby’s movements and patterns. You should feel your baby kick, roll, or twist 10 times within one hour.1,4

What Is Normal?

Don’t panic if you don’t initially feel the desired number of kicks. If you fail to feel your baby move 10 times within an hour, there are some things you can try to get your baby to move.

How To Get the Baby To Move

It can be entertaining and encouraging to make your little one move inside you. Eliciting movement may be necessary to ensure the baby’s well-being. Here are a few suggestions for motivating your baby to move in utero.3,6

  • Enjoy a meal or a snack. Low blood sugar may make your baby’s acrobatics more mellow than usual. A sugar spike should get them moving.
  • Drink something cold. The temperature of ice-cold water could get your little one to twist around.
  • Gently jiggle or nudge your belly. As the baby grows, you may be able to identify where your baby’s back, butt, and feet are. Poke, tickle, or rub your babe from the outside.
  • Make some noise. Your baby’s hearing will be well-developed by the third trimester. Talk, sing, or play music to get your baby dancing.
  • Exercise. Physical movement, whether stretching, walking, or something more intense, could be enough to wake your baby up from a nap. Remember to speak with your obstetric provider about the safety of your physical activities.
  • Try a foot or hand massage. A study showed that a three-minute foot massage may increase fetal movement.
  • Lie down and completely relax. Resting may allow you to be more aware of the baby’s movements. Change positions to shake them up!

Contact your provider if your baby is still not moving or meeting the fetal kick count number after attempting some strategies and giving an additional hour.

When Should You Contact Your Provider?

Developing babies have sleep cycles and regular periods of inactivity while in utero. As your baby grows and your due date approaches, gymnastics practice has less interior space. Some parents may be more in tune with fetal activity than others.

It’s essential to contact your healthcare provider if you feel decreased baby movement or have not felt your baby move after trying the above tricks. Decreased fetal movement is always a reason for evaluation. Your provider will likely perform additional monitoring in the office or hospital.2

This surveillance can include a non-stress test, which involves at least 20 minutes of continuous fetal heart rate monitoring. Additionally, a biophysical profile (BPP) may be necessary. A BPP ultrasound assesses fetal movement, breathing, tone, and amniotic fluid levels. Both tests provide a more detailed evaluation of your baby’s well-being.2

Your baby will spend much of its time, from embryo to birth, finding a balance between rest and acrobatics. When the third trimester rolls around, you must be aware of your little one’s movements, and knowing when to start fetal kick counts become essential. Knowing how to troubleshoot a quiet baby that should be moving is important. Do not hesitate to contact your obstetric provider if you are concerned about your baby’s activity at any point in your pregnancy.

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Danielle Rush
Danielle Rush Labor & Delivery and Postpartum nurse
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Danielle Rush, BSN, RN, is a Labor & Delivery and Postpartum nurse and freelance health writer specializing in all things women’s health. Danielle loves to educate, advocate, and inspire her… Read more

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