Babies' Movements

Monitoring your baby’s movement pattern is a lovely way to get to know your baby, as well as being a key indicator of your baby’s wellbeing. A reduction in a baby’s movements can sometimes be an important warning sign that a baby is unwell.

During pregnancy, babies’ first movements happen any time between 16 and 24 weeks. A baby’s movements can be described as anything from a kick, flutter, swish or roll. The type of movement may change as your pregnancy progresses. From 16-24 weeks of pregnancy you should feel your baby move more and more up until 32 weeks. Movements then stay about the same until your baby is born.

It is not true that babies move less towards the end of pregnancy or in labour. You can start keeping track of your baby’s movement pattern from 24 weeks. Your midwife will ask about your baby’s movements at every appointment from 25 weeks onwards. If you think your baby’s movements have changed, don’t wait until your next appointment to report it.

If you think your baby’s movements have slowed down or stopped after 28 weeks, speak to your midwife or maternity unit immediately. Do not put off getting in touch with your midwife or maternity unit. Do not worry about phoning, it is important you talk to a midwife or your maternity unit for advice even if you are uncertain. It is very likely that they will want to see you straight away.
Midwives are available 24 hours a day 7 days a week. There is always a midwife available, even at night

If you’re unsure whether your baby has moved because you are having a busy day, find some space and time to lie on your left side and concentrate on your baby’s movements for up to an hour. Don’t wait any longer, even if you’re still not sure.

Don’t rely on hand-held monitors, phone apps or Dopplers at home to check your baby’s heartbeat. Even if they detect a heartbeat, this doesn’t mean your baby is well and you may be falsely reassured.

What Should Happen

Less than 24 weeks pregnant

Your midwife will check your baby’s heartbeat. An ultrasound scan may be arranged and you may be seen by a specialist to check your baby’s wellbeing if a problem is suspected.

Between 24 and 28 weeks pregnant

Your baby’s heartbeat will be checked and you will have a full check-up that should include:

  • Checking the size of your baby by measuring your bump
  • Checking your blood pressure
  • Testing your urine for protein

If your baby is smaller than expected, an ultrasound scan may be arranged to check on your baby’s growth.

Over 28 weeks pregnant

1. You will be asked about your baby’s movements.

2. You will have an antenatal check-up, including checking your baby’s heartbeat and measuring the size of your bump.

3. Your baby’s heart rate will be monitored using a CTG, usually for at least 20 minutes.

You should not be discharged until you are happy with your baby’s movements again. You may also have an ultrasound scan if:

  • Your baby is smaller than expected
  • Your pregnancy has other factors that are associated with a higher risk of stillbirth

The ultrasound scan is normally done within 24 hours. These checks usually show that all is well. Most women who have one episode of reduction in their baby’s movements go on to have a healthy baby.

If you notice reduced movements again

If, after your check up, you notice that your baby’s movements have reduced again, contact your maternity unit straight away, no matter how many times this happens, even if everything appeared normal last time.

Be Empowered

Please contact your maternity team for advice if you are carrying multiples, have an anterior placenta or if you have any concerns about your baby’s movement pattern.

You can also print this NHS leaflet “Feeling Your Baby Move” which we helped to develop.

References

Tommy’s Leaflet; What happens next

RCOG Leaflet; Your baby’s movements in pregnancy

RCOG Greentop Guideline; Reduced Fetal Movements