When you are pregnant, feeling the baby’s kicks and movements is exciting. It lets you know that there is a thriving little life inside, and helps you bond in very early months.
Though there are stories about how movement in the womb is associated with athleticism or activity levels in childhood, doctors will tell you that, factually, an active baby in the womb is one that is developing, according to Healthline. Think of the stretching, kicking, and punching they are doing as exercise, which is helping to grow their bones and joints.
In fact, at just 20 weeks of development a baby can kick with up to 6.5 pounds of force, and that increases to 10.5 at 30 weeks, according to Motherly. Things drop to 3.8 pounds of force at 35 weeks as the baby runs out of room inside the womb. At this early stage in development, these movements are largely reflexes rather than organized and coordinated movements. Still, they’re serving the function they’re designed for and building a strong musculoskeletal system.
When should you first feel movement?
A baby will begin moving as early as 12 weeks in the womb, according to WebMD, but is probably still too small for the mother to feel anything. At week 16, some flutters might be felt, and at week 20 some women might begin to feel the first real signs of movement. Week 24 is when movements become more regular, through week 36 when the uterus becomes too crowded for a lot of movement.
Your doctor may suggest that you engage in kick counting, as a way to regularly monitor your baby’s movements. To do this you count the number of times your baby kicks within a specified time period, say 10 minutes. This is normally repeated at the same time daily, generally when the baby is active, such as following a meal (via Healthline). You are not comparing your baby to any established number of expected movements, but rather getting an idea of what is normal for them, so you can notice any deviation.
If you’ve reached 22 weeks of pregnancy and still haven’t felt movement, or if you’ve felt any change in your baby’s movement patterns, speak with your healthcare provider.
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