When you’re pregnant, one of the most wonderful things is feeling the baby move inside you. Knowing your baby is alive and real is just an amazing sensation, even before he/she is born. But when can you expect to feel the baby move? Will it hurt? What does it feel like?
A lot of women wonder about this, especially with their first pregnancies. And while the answers vary widely, there are some “averages” that we can discuss!
When Will My Baby Move?
Truthfully, your baby is moving from only around 6 or 8 weeks into your pregnancy but is too small for you to feel yet. The baby reaches 1″ long around 10 weeks, which is still pretty tiny! Some women, especially those who are pregnant for the second time or more, may feel their babies around 8 – 10 weeks, but this is rare. Most women start to feel their babies move sometime between 12 and 16 weeks the first time, and a bit earlier in subsequent pregnancies.
It is not unheard of for women not to feel their babies until past 20 weeks, though, especially in first pregnancies. Having a tilted uterus, being overweight, or simply for “no reason” at all, you may not feel your baby until later. I didn’t feel my first until 23 weeks, and my second until 20, for “no reason,” but nothing was wrong. I felt my third baby at around 10 weeks, though!
What Does it Feel Like?
At first, it’s hard to tell if you’re really feeling your baby. If you’re feeling the baby fairly early (before 16 weeks), it will be very low and central (your uterus doesn’t reach your belly button until around 20 weeks). If you are early on and think you feel your baby higher, it’s probably not the baby yet.
Early movements feel like little swishes or even bubbles. Some women, especially first-time moms, can mistake gas bubbles or other internal movements for the baby. Once you feel insistent little thumps, you can be sure it’s the baby! Later you’ll feel stronger and stronger movements as your baby grows, and there will be no mistaking what it is!
Does it Hurt When the Baby Moves?
At first, no. The baby is too small to hurt you in any way. But as the baby grows, some movements may be uncomfortable. When your baby is quite large (past about 28 weeks) and is starting to run out of room, some movements can hurt. The baby can kick you in the ribs, or elbow your side sharply (and keep the elbow there!), stretch and push down on your bladder, etc. It is possible to move your baby by pushing from the outside to tuck elbows and knees back in again. Of course, some babies are pretty stubborn and shove their limbs right back out again!
When Can We Feel it from the Outside?
For a lot of men, the first time they can really participate in the pregnancy is when they can feel the baby move from the outside. This usually is possible between 20 and 24 weeks. If you lie still and possibly eat something sweet (fruit is sweet enough), the baby will get active and your husband can sit and put his hand on your belly. He may get to feel the baby kick him!
After a while, the baby’s movements will be so strong that you’ll be able to clearly see him or her moving if you lie still. While reclined in bed or in a bath is a good time to watch your baby move. Your belly will take on all kinds of funny shapes, and will jump as the baby moves! If you place something on your belly (like a light book), your baby may even kick it off. And later in pregnancy, you may even feel your baby hiccup!
Should I Ever Be Concerned about Movement?
In your third trimester, your doctor may ask you to do a “kick count”every day. This is where you lie down and count the number of kicks/movements you feel within a certain period of time, usually about an hour. You should feel at least 10 movements in this time. It is important, however, to note that babies do sleep, so if your baby isn’t moving, it may just be because he is tired!
Your baby may also have “quiet days” or “quiet times,” in which s/he doesn’t move very much. But most of the time, s/he will be so active throughout the day that you won’t even need to do a count.
However, there can be concerns if you don’t feel any movement for several hours. If you’re worried, lie down and drink some juice or something else sweet. Poke your belly and try to wake your baby. If you don’t feel any movement within 20 minutes or so, call your doctor or midwife and ask for a non-stress test (checking the heart rate and for any contractions). Especially if your baby is usually quite active and suddenly does not move for awhile, this can help reassure you that everything is okay.
Most of the time the baby is just having an “off day,” but on rare occasions, lack of movement does mean that something is wrong, possibly requiring emergency delivery, or, on even rarer occasions, that the baby has already died. But please know this is extremely rare and that almost all episodes of non-movement are just because you have been too busy to notice, and/or the baby is having a quiet day.
And that’s what you need to know about feeling your baby move!