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Those first few fluttery movements are sometimes called quickening. At the very beginning, you might feel something and then second guess yourself: Did I really feel something? These early fetal movements might feel like a gentle fluttering, or it might feel like bubbles. Some people even mistake them for gas.
In general, you can expect to start feeling them during your second trimester, usually between 16 and 22 weeks Trusted Source of your pregnancy. However, if it’s your first pregnancy, you’re more likely to start feeling them on the later side, perhaps between 20 and 22 weeks. If you’ve been pregnant before, you might start noticing them a little earlier, perhaps around the 16-week mark.
However, every pregnancy is unique. There’s no set “correct” time to feel fetal movement, and you may feel flutters even earlier than 16 weeks or a little later than 22 weeks.
Changes in Fetal Movement
After all the first trimester fatigue (and nausea, and constipation, and frequent need to pee), the joyful feeling of your baby’s first movements comes as a welcome relief in the second trimester. But what might initially seem like a sport (how long does it take after that morning OJ to feel a flutter?) can sometimes become a stressor as you wonder what fetal movement should feel like — and whether any changes are normal.
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Changes in fetal movement throughout pregnancy
Fetal movements vary from person to person and baby to baby. Some babies constantly test the limits of their cozy confines, while others sit back and relax until their debuts. What’s more, significant changes in fetal movement throughout your pregnancy are normal:
In the second trimester
When you feel those first flutters of fetal movement (usually around month 5 or weeks 18 to 22 of pregnancy), they might seem like butterflies, twitches, nudges or even hunger pangs.
Once you can feel them, the movements will grow increasingly acrobatic and his punches more powerful as his muscles get stronger. Your little gymnast is also still small enough to turn somersaults with abandon in your uterus.
By the time you’re 6 months pregnant, leg movements become more frequent and seemingly choreographed. You might start noticing patterns in the pitter-patter of those little feet, although it’s just as likely that the behavior will be unpredictable.
In the third trimester
At 7 months pregnant, your baby still has enough room to toss and turn ,and he’s getting stronger every day. Those punches, while comforting, can feel downright jolting.
As your baby packs on the pounds in month 8, that formerly spacious apartment called your womb becomes more like a cramped closet. Acrobatic tumbles are less likely, but you’ll continue to feel wriggling and turning with a few jabs of elbows and knees thrown in for good measure.
By month 9, at nearly full weight and length, your little one is not so little relative to those tight quarters. You won’t feel those rapid-fire pummeling kicks since there’s just no room for that. But larger lurches and bigger movements (as baby turns over, for example) will definitely get your attention.
Starting around week 28, your doctor or midwife may suggest counting your baby’s kicks every day until you give birth. It’s usually a good idea to plan a kick count once in the morning and once again in the evening (and even more frequently in month 9). You’re looking to count 10 fetal movements of any kind (kicks, swishes, rolls, etc.) within one hour.
If you don’t reach 10 kicks within one hour, have a snack and try again. And if you don’t count 10 kicks in two hours, call your practitioner. Also check in if you’re in month 9 and notice any sudden decrease in fetal movement.
Reasons for decreased fetal movement
Once you’ve felt your baby’s first kicks, don’t get too used to a particular pattern. Fetal movement will change throughout pregnancy for a whole lot of different (usually perfectly normal) reasons:
You’ve been super active
Have you been out and about all day? The gentle rocking motion of moms’ daily movements tend to lull babies to sleep. You may also just be too busy to notice any jiggles going on in there.
You just had sex
While some babies become quite active after sex, others get lulled to sleep by the rhythmic uterine contractions that go with orgasm. Both responses are completely normal. As long as your practitioner hasn’t told you otherwise, sex during pregnancy is completely safe.
Your baby is still too small to feel consistently
Throughout your second trimester, all bets are off on fetal movement. Your baby may be an acrobat one minute and in hibernation the next. You may go hours or even a couple of days without noticing fetal movement.
Since your baby’s still quite small, it’s easy to miss movements (especially if he’s facing inward instead of outward). In fact, since babies are often most active at night, you might sleep right through most of the action.
Concerned? Try lying down in the evening with a glass of OJ — the combination of a calm uterine environment and sugar boost may get your baby moving again. Keep in mind, you only need to start counting kicks in the third trimester (week 28).
There’s less room in your womb
When you first felt your baby move, he had plenty of room to kick to his little heart’s content. What began as butterfly-like flutters (which you could barely distinguish from gas) really started packing a punch as the weeks passed.
By the third trimester, however, your baby’s grown a lot bigger — which means that personal gym has grown smaller. There’s still room for movement, but not the kind you’re used to. Instead, you’ll feel more twists, wiggles, stretches and turns.
Your baby’s sleeping
By the time you’re in your third trimester, you’ll feel not only less vigorous movements but also less frequent movement. Fetuses, like newborns, have interludes of deep sleep (and it’s too bad they don’t always occur when you’re sleeping).
In fact, your baby is more likely to be up when you’re trying to catch some winks and sleepy when you’re active. This means that there’ll be times during the day when you’ll feel little — or no — movement at all. And that’s okay.
If you’re a little nervous and want to prod your baby to shake a leg (and bring you a little peace of mind), you can try a few different simple strategies:
- Eat a snack or drink something sweet like orange juice.
- Get up and move around.
- Shine a flashlight onto your belly.
- Talk to your baby.
- Push or poke (gently!) at your belly where you can feel your baby.