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Why is Counting Fetal Movements Important?

Fetal activity is a key indicator of a healthy pregnancy.

Starting around 18 to 20 weeks, your baby will begin to move more at certain times of the day. After 28 weeks, your movements will become stronger and more predictable. Your care provider may advise you to start tracking your fetal movements. This is often called "kick counting".

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Fetal activity can help predict... 

Impaired growth 

Premature birth

Neonatal depression

Emergency deliveries

Stillbirth

Did you know?

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of pregnancy-related maternal death is preventable (1)

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of stillbirths are preventable (2)

Tracking your fetal movements on a regular basis can help you learn your baby's unique movement patterns and recognize if there is a change.

A change in your normal pattern may indicate that there is an issue, and we advise you to call your healthcare provider right away if you feel concerned, as you know your baby best. Emerging research has shown that expectant individuals recall "gut instincts" about their pregnancy before a stillbirth!

We encourage you to get to know your baby's unique patterns and habits since there isn't one set standard for when and how often your baby will move.

If you're looking for a place to start, in Canada, 6 movements in 2 hours or less are generally considered normal.

Source: Health Link BC

Counting movements has shown

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reduction in fetal mortality (3)

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reported feeling strongly that something was wrong before experiencing a stillbirth (4)

How do I track fetal movements?

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Most expectant individuals feel that it's easiest to track your baby's movements when you sit or lie down in a comfortable position.

Then observe any movements that you feel, and note down how many, what kind, and at what time you felt a movement. Aim to track every day, ideally at the same time for 1 hour.

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Want more support? We hear you! Check out the Flutter Care App for our easy-to-use fetal movement counter.

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Types of fetal movements you might feel include

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Kicks

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Flutters

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Swishes

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Rolls

Take note! Hiccups aren't considered a full fetal movement

When feeling for movements, look out for...

Frequency

Record how long and how often it typically takes for your baby to move within an hour, around the same time daily.

Strength

Look for the level of force or intensity in the movement. Babies typically will continue to grow in strength over time, right up until birth!

Patterns

Look for patterns - what time in the day/night is your baby most active? What kinds of stimuli (i.e. light, voices, touch, etc.) do they respond most to? What types of movements do they usually have?

To make things easy and simple, we've also created a free How-To poster on counting your fetal movements! Visit the Resources page to download them to your phone or print them out.

References:

[1] CDC Division of Reproductive HealthNational Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion “Pregnancy Related Death https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/maternalinfanthealth/pregnancy-relatedmortality.htm (February 2019)


[2] Jessica Page et al. “Potentially Preventable Stillbirth in a Diverse U.S. Cohort” https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29324601/

[3] Management of decreased fetal movements. Frøen JF, Tveit JV, Saastad E, Børdahl PE, Stray-Pedersen B, Heazell AE, Flenady V, Fretts RC. Semin Perinatol. 2008;32(4):307.

[4] Warland, J., O’Brien, L.M., Heazell, A.E.P. et al. An international internet survey of the experiences of 1,714 mothers with a late stillbirth: the STARS cohort study. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth 15, 172 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12884-015-0602-4

 

Fetal Health Surveillance: Antepartum Consensus Guideline (2018). J Obstet Gynaecol Can, 40(4):e251-271.

Predictors of poor perinatal outcome following maternal perception of reduced fetal movements--a prospective cohort study. Dutton PJ, Warrander LK, Roberts SA, Bernatavicius G, Byrd LM, Gaze D, Kroll J, Jones RL, Sibley CP, Frøen JF, Heazell AE. PLoS One. 2012;7(7):e39784. Epub 2012 7 11. 

https://www.pushpregnancy.org/know-your-normal

https://www.pushpregnancy.org/fetal-movement

Frequently Asked Questions

About Fetal Movements

Why are my baby's fetal movements important?


As your baby grows throughout your pregnancy, they will develop their own unique movements. This is important because a change in your baby’s regular movement patterns could be a sign that they are unwell. There has been evidence that women who had experienced a stillbirth noticed that their baby’s movements had changed, such as more frequent, less frequent, or stopped completely. We encourage you to trust in yourself to feel for your baby’s movements and seek help right away when you notice a change!




How often should my baby move?


This is a great question! We encourage mothers to understand their baby’s unique pattern of movement over time. There is no set number of “normal” movements that a baby should have. However, common guidelines in the US state 10 movements within 2 hours (ACOG), and in Canada, 6 movements in 2 hours (SOGC).




I thought babies move less towards the end of pregnancy as there’s less room for them to move?


You may be surprised to learn that this is actually a myth! You should expect to feel your baby move from your 16-20th week all the way until you go into labour (and even during labour)! If you are worried about your baby’s movement patterns, contact your healthcare provider immediately! Remember that you are not wasting their time by protecting the health and safety of yourself and your baby!




What should I do if I notice a change in my baby’s movements?


Whether you’ve been tracking every day, or your intuition is telling you something has changed make sure to contact your health care practitioner or midwife right away if you believe your baby’s movements have changed. Remember that you are not wasting anyone’s time by looking out for the health and safety of yourself and your baby. Research has shown this has saved lives! You can expect to be instructed to come into your local maternity unit where they will check on your baby’s heartbeat, measure your baby’s growth, and possibly perform an ultrasound and blood test.




I heard if I have something to eat or drink that will get my baby moving again, is that right?


Stimulating movement through eating or drinking is a common myth. There has been no evidence that shows this works. If you are concerned about your baby’s movements, do not waste any time trying to stimulate your baby and contact your healthcare provider or maternity unit immediately to get checked. Remember you are your baby’s best advocate!




If I am worried about my baby's movements is it best to wait and discuss this at my next pregnancy check-up? I don't want to bother staff unnecessarily...


If at any point you feel concerned about a change in your baby’s fetal movements, immediately contact your healthcare provider. There is help available 24/7. You are your baby’s best advocate, and we encourage you to trust yourself because your initiative could save your baby’s life!