Mesa Gynecologist Dr. Tamar Gottfried discusses one of the most memorable days of a pregnancy. This is the day that a mother first feels her baby move. Typically this occurs at about 21 weeks for a first time mom and as early as 15 weeks for an experienced mom. The fetus actually starts moving earlier than this, in the first trimester, but the early movements are so small and the uterine muscle so thick that these early movements are difficult to feel. The first fetal movments feel like intestinal gas bubbles or the fluttering of butterfly wings and are only felt by the mother-to-be. As the fetus grows larger and the uterine muscle thins out, both parents can start to feel the kicks, hits and somersaults of the developing baby. Early movements can be inconsistent and irregular, but, by the start of the third trimester at 28 weeks, regular daily movements should be noted.
As the third trimester progresses, mothers may notice that the fetus becomes less active. Sometimes they are simply noting the waking/sleeping cycles of the baby. Like babies once they are born, fetuses tend to be lulled to sleep by the movements of their mothers when they are active, and wake when their mothers are resting. An average fetus after 28 weeks should have at least 2 active periods a day- defined by 10 or more movements in an hour. Keeping track of these movements is called Kick Counting. We don’t expect to see this much movement every hour; just at least twice a day. While babies do move less dramatically (less turns and twists) as the end of pregnancy approaches, they should still have a good number of kicks, hits and taps.
What does it mean if a fetus is not moving at least 10 times in any hour? It may mean nothing or it may mean that the mother is dehydrated and needs to drink, or eat or that she is active and needs to rest and concentrate on counting fetal movements. However, if a mom has eaten or drank and relaxed and still can’t count 10 movements, it may mean that the placenta is no longer performing adequately. Decreased fetal movement can indicate a lack of fluid around the baby limiting movement or a placenta that isn’t working well enough to provide nutrition to the baby. For this reason, decreased fetal movement should prompt an immediate visit to the Ob office or to the maternity ward at the hospital for a nonstress test and ultrasound. Delay can have disastrous consequences. This is not something that can wait until the next morning to be evaluated.
In conclusion, fetal movement is a reassurance that a baby is doing well on the inside. A decrease in movement may indicate a problem and should be addressed right away. For more information regarding fetal kick counts or fetal movement charting, you can call our Mesa ob/gyn office.
Tamar Gottfried is a Board Certified Obstetrician/ gynecologist practicing general Ob/gyn in Mesa Arizona and affiliated with Banner Desert and Banner Gateway Medical Centers. She can be contacted at 480-545-0059. This is a general interest article only and is not intended to be medical advice. See a medical professional before making medical decisions