Your developing baby’s kicks are nothing short of wondrous. But what causes them and how does one know if there’s too much or too little movement?
Feeling that fluttering in the belly already? Whether it's your first child or one of several children, these kicks will always be an exciting part of getting to experience the developing baby in your womb.
First time mothers can take longer to recognize these kicks as they could easily feel like gas or a mere flutter. For more experienced mums, it is easier to catch when the developing baby starts moving.
These movements could be anything from your developing baby stretching, changing sides, or simply reacting to stimuli that you expose your belly to.
What makes my bump move?
Commonly felt fetal reactions are a result of music, light, touch, and the food you eat. You’ll find that talking to your belly will probably get some form of movement, as will touching it.
Music has been associated with fetal development; and while we can’t say for certain that your developing baby will love Bach, you will certainly feel him respond when you turn up the volume on your current playlist. And it's not only music that may have long term effects. A study conducted by the National Academy of Sciences suggests that babies learn to recognize words too; while still inside the womb.i
By week 26, your developing baby can now open his or her beautiful eyes and blink, and his retina continues to develop.ii Your developing baby may now even be able to react to light outside the womb. Although his vision is still quite blurry, bright sources of light can trigger some movement from your developing baby.
A mother’s touch is an effective way of getting a response from inside the womb. In a study on fetal behavioral responses, mothers rubbing their bellies resulted in their unborn babies displaying more arm, head, and mouth movements.iii
Too much or too little movement?
It is good practice to be aware of your developing baby's movements. Beginning around 28 weeks (third trimester), spend some time each day counting your developing baby's kicks. A healthy developing baby will usually move at least 10 times in two hours when he/she is awake. If you find that your developing baby is moving too much, making you uncomfortable, or if you have any concerns, try to sit in a quiet place and focus on feeling your developing baby's movements. If you still feel unsure or anxious, contact your doctor immediately.iv
Stress is another stimulus that can have a counterproductive effect on movement. In a study under the John Hopkins Fetal Development project, it was shown that the psychological state of the mother affects fetal neurobehavior, activity, and growth.v
To keep stress levels at bay, try different forms of exercise such as yoga after advice of your doctor. These provide physical activity along with mental relaxation, both going a long way in keeping your overall health in check.
If you have noticed that your developing baby is not moving as much, don’t panic. Developing babies in the belly sleep a lot. The lack of movement could mean a resting period. In case of prolonged period where you do not feel a movement, please consult your doctor.
If by 24 weeks, you still have never felt your developing baby move, contact your doctor to make sure your developing baby is healthy and developing well.
According to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, fetal position also influences whether you can feel the movement or not. If the spine lays anteriorly, you may not be able to perceive any movement despite being able to visualize them during an ultrasound exam.iv Also if you are highly overweight (above 80 kg) the chances of feeling decreased fetal movements is higher.vii
Keep your doctor’s number at hand to rule out any complications or to address your worries. Stay informed, invest in your and your developing baby’s nutrition and health, and get yourself ready.
iPartanen, E., Kujala, T., Naatanen, R., Liitola, A., Sambeth, A., & Huotilainen, M. (2013). Learning-induced neural plasticity of speech processing before birth. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,110(37), 15145-15150. doi:10.1073/pnas.1302159110
iiYou and your baby at 25-28 weeks pregnancy - Pregnancy and baby guide. (2017, February 28). Retrieved Aprl 10, 2017, from http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/pregnancy-weeks-25...
iiiMarx, V., & Nagy, E. (2015). Fetal Behavioural Responses to Maternal Voice and Touch. Plos One,10(6). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0129118
ivPregnancy—your baby's movements and what they mean. Retrieved 7 June 2017 from, http://brochures.mater.org.au/home/brochures/mater-mothers-hospital/preg...
vDipietro, J. A., Hilton, S. C., Hawkins, M., Costigan, K. A., & Pressman, E. K. (2002). Maternal stress and affect influence fetal neurobehavioral development. Developmental Psychology,38(5), 659-668. doi:10.1037//0012-1622.214.171.1249
viRoyal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists. (2011). Reduced Fetal Movements (Green-top Guideline No. 57). Retrieved from https://www.rcog.org.uk/globalassets/documents/guidelines/gtg_57.pdf
viiTuffnell, DJ, Cartmill, RS, & Lilford, RJ. (1991). Fetal movements; factors affecting their perception. Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol., 10: 39(3): 165-7.