Why Babies Move at Night During Pregnancy - Baby Chick
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Why Babies Move at Night During Pregnancy

Are you a pregnant mama being kept awake by a wiggly baby? Here is why babies tend to move at night and tips for getting more sleep!

Published January 12, 2022

by Marianella Orlando

Medically reviewed by Kristy Goodman

Obstetrician-Gynecologist Physician Assistant, MS, MPH, PA-C

One thing that pregnant mommas worldwide can agree on is the beauty of getting good sleep. Yes, having a pregnancy craving satisfied is comforting. Getting a foot rub is relaxing. But nothing truly compares to the wonders of a good night’s rest.

Unfortunately, as moms-to-be near the end of their pregnancy, this gift of sleep is hard to come by. While they lie in bed, ready to let their body rest after a long, busy day, the kick happens. It’s then followed by a punch, a roll, and hours’ worth of squirming from inside the womb. Moms who were once ready to succumb to sleep are left wide awake throughout the night. (And let’s not forget that when they do finally fall asleep, they are soon awoken by the need to pee.)

For many expectant mothers, the sudden and constant movement can leave room for concern. Is my baby moving too much? Why do babies move so much more at night? When do I need to worry?

The short answer is it’s completely normal and shouldn’t leave moms worried. But to help further cast aside worries, we’re diving into why babies move at night, when to contact your physician, and how to get some rest despite the late-night party in your stomach.

Why Do Babies Move at Night?

Similar to newborns, babies in utero spend most of their day sleeping. According to Psychology Today, fetuses are asleep about 90 to 95% of the time when women have reached seven months of gestation.1

As mommas go about their daily routine, babies are soothed by the constant motion and noises and easily fall asleep. At night, on the other hand, it’s possible babies recognize their mom’s inactivity and may respond to the drastic change in movement with flutters. They may not understand why mom is no longer moving or why they cannot hear her voice, which Psychology Today also found to soothe a baby while in utero.

With little ones adjusted to moms’ daily regimen, they may also begin to create their unique schedule, in which movement signals naptime. This pattern could lead to the development of their circadian rhythm, as some experts have theorized. So when mom is up during the day, her baby will naturally fall asleep and vice versa at night.

When Should I Worry?

A 2019 study revealed that it’s entirely normal for babies to move around in the womb at night.2 So much so that 75% of women who participated in the research reported bedtime as the highest time for punches, twists, and twirls.2 All movement in utero is a normal part of pregnancy. Whether babies in utero are asleep or awake, they move 50 times or more each hour, from stretching their body to moving their head.1

While soon-to-be-moms usually report feeling the first fetal movement, also known as quickening, anywhere from the 16 to 22-week mark of gestation, a fetus has actually been active since the early weeks of their pregnancy. Around ten weeks of gestation, babies begin to move their heads and necks. This is followed by breathing, body rolls, and limb movement by 15 weeks.

Kicks are also a sign of a healthy pregnancy—and science agrees. Research has discovered that movement in utero allows babies to properly develop their bones, cartilage, joints, and muscles.3 Their body is growing and developing, which comes with stretching and flexing their newfound limbs.

You should only worry and contact your doctor immediately if you notice a drastic decline in your baby’s movement or sense no movement at all. It’s also important to remember that no two pregnancies or babies are the same. Your experience with one child may differ from your second or third baby.

5 Tricks to Get Much Needed Sleep

Although it’s great news that your baby’s nighttime womb party is healthy and normal, you still suffer from long, sleepless nights. Here are six tactics to help you get some shut-eye and potentially help your little one quiet down.

1. Become best friends with a pregnancy pillow.

Pregnancy pillows are a blessing for expecting mommas in dire need of sleep. With so many brands on the market, you can find your perfect match to help you drift off each night.

2. Don’t go to bed on a full stomach.

Babies are most active after you’ve eaten a meal or have a full stomach since there is less room for your baby to sprawl out. Moms will also easily pick up on more movements due to being full.

3. Don’t drink caffeine past a certain hour.

Avoid having coffee or caffeinated tea in the afternoon and evening. Not only will you find yourself more alert at night, but so will your baby.

4. Try not to drink a lot of water before going to bed.

Infants already put a lot of pressure on your bladder. Throw in a tall glass of water chugged right before bed, and you’ll wake up periodically to use the bathroom. While hydrating during pregnancy is recommended, it’s best to refrain from consuming too much water in the evening so you can stay asleep longer.

5. Talk to your baby.

Babies can hear everything that is happening inside and outside the walls of your womb, including the rumbling of your stomach and intestines, the flow of blood through your vessels, and the sound of your voice. Columbia University psychologist William Fifer revealed that a baby’s heart rate slows when they hear their mom speaking, indicating that they’re soothed by it.1

You may not be able to stop your baby from the bedtime wiggles. But you can feel comfort in knowing that it’s normal and natural. Find a few ways to wind down and do your best to sleep tight!

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Marianella Orlando was born and raised in Philadelphia. She has a Master of Science in Journalism from Columbia University. Her work has since been featured in Philadelphia Magazine, The Philadelphia… Read more

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