Monitoring your baby's movements during pregnancy

You will usually start to feel your baby move at around 20 to 22 weeks of pregnancy.  For some women, their placenta is situated towards the front of their uterus and this may make the baby’s movements harder to feel.  These women may not feel movements until later in the pregnancy.  While the baby is still small, the movements may not be felt consistently, as the baby may shift position and kick towards your back, which is harder to feel.  By about 26-28 weeks the baby is large enough that you should be able to feel movements regularly.  At this point, if you feel that the baby has not been moving as much

How to count the baby’s movements:

  • You can have something cold and sweet to eat and/or drink about 10 minutes prior to starting to count the movements.  It is also a good idea to empty your bladder so you will be comfortable.
  • Find a quiet place where you can concentrate on the movements without distraction.
  • Sit or lie down comfortably.  If you are lying down, it is preferable to be tipped to your left side.  Put your hands on your belly so that you can also feel movements from the outside of your abdomen.
  • Count each movement that you feel.
  • 6 movements in 2 hours is normal.  Once you feel 6 movements, you can stop counting.  This may take only 10 minutes, or it may take the entire 2 hours.
  • A baby can sleep for 90 minutes, so you may feel nothing for the first 90 minutes and then all of the 6 movements in the last 30 minutes.
  • If you don’t feel 6 movements in 2 hours, you should page your midwife.  She will recommend that you come into the clinic for assessment and/or that you go to the hospital for a non-stress test.  A non-stress test involves putting the continuous fetal monitor on your belly (a heart rate monitor attached to a belt) and asking you to press a button each time you feel the baby move.  This gives us more detailed information about the baby’s wellbeing.

Important points to remember:

Fetal Health Surveillance: Antepartum and Intrapartum Consensus Guideline.  Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada (SOGC) 2007

    • for a healthy woman with a low risk pregnancy, it is not recommended to count fetal movements every day.  Instead, you should count your baby’s movements only if you notice that the baby is moving less than usual.
    • As the baby grows and has less room to move, the nature of the movements may become more subtle, or gentle, but the frequency of the movements should not decrease.
    • There is no clear best approach to monitoring a baby’s wellbeing using movement counting.  If you count 6 movements in 2 hours but you are still concerned, you can contact your midwife.