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Count Kicks to Know Your Baby

By Michele Savin MSN, NNP-BC

Count Kicks to Know Your Baby

Do you count kicks to know your baby?

Taking time each day to check in with your baby, assess his or her movements, and simply bond for a few moments is the best way to ensure your baby is developing well!

Your pregnant friend tells you she’s taking time each day to count the number of movements or “kicks” her baby makes. She says she feels closer to her baby; she loves this quiet time together. Now you’re wondering if you should do kick counts, too?

The answer is why not! How often your baby moves is a window into how she’s doing; it tells you about her overall health. Every baby is different, and if you spend time getting to know your baby and her habits, including when she’s awake and active, and when she seems to prefer to sleep, you’re more likely to know if something suddenly changes or seems different.

Why Count Kicks

It’s typical for healthcare providers to ask women with high-risk pregnancies to spend some time each day, usually just a few minutes, counting their baby’s movements. Kick counts help you and your healthcare provider look for the first signs of problems, even as early as 24 weeks. In a normal pregnancy, kick counts are a great way to check in with your baby and reassure yourself that everything seems fine.

Your healthcare provider may ask you to do this, and for good reason: Decreased fetal movement has been associated with developmental delays in children and even stillbirth.

Kick counts are easy; they just take a few minutes during which time you’re bonding with your baby. After a few sessions, you’ll get to know what’s normal—and not—for your little one.

Kick Counts Boost Confidence

Research shows that pregnant women who chart their baby’s movements feel more confident and have fewer concerns with their pregnancy when compared to women who don’t track their baby’s movements. There’s science to back their confidence: Recent studies in Norway and Canada found that when a mom expressed concern about reduced movement from her baby, healthcare providers could intervene earlier, reducing the number of stillbirths.

Why these babies begin to move less than other babies isn’t clear but experts think that less fetal movement may be a sign that the placenta isn’t meeting baby’s needs.

How To Do Kick Counts

Do kick counts every day when your baby is active. In your womb, your baby will have sleep cycles of up to 40 minutes. She’ll usually be most active after you eat, when you exercise or move around and in the late evening.

Find that time each day when baby seems most active. Stop what you’re doing, sit down, relax and pay attention to her. With your hands on your growing belly, start counting each fetal movement. You should feel at least 10 movements within 2 hours, say experts at the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

Of course, most babies will have 10 movements in a much shorter time. In fact, it may only take about 30 minutes to get to 10 movements. In 1 study, mothers counted 10 movements in an average of 10 minutes—those babies were on the move! Even the busiest woman can find 10 minutes to sit quietly and get to know her growing baby. Once you reach 10, you’re done!

Every Movement Counts

While this activity is often called kick counting, it actually includes any movement your baby makes, such as rolling, kicking, stretching or the like. Hiccups don’t count, though.

You may have heard that babies move less the closer they are to their due date, but this isn’t true. As your pregnancy approaches term baby has less room to move around but research shows us babies don’t move any less. And this is true regardless of your own body size, how close to your due date you are or where the placenta is attached to your uterus.

What you feel may change but you should always feel movement, even if it is different from what you felt in your 2nd trimester. In fact, counting kicks regularly means you’ll know your baby’s habits, such as when she sleeps and when she’s typically active.

If your baby’s movements change, particularly if they’re not typical, as frequent or as strong, let your healthcare provider know immediately. If your healthcare provider doesn’t take your observation seriously, ask to speak to another provider on call or go to your hospital’s emergency department or birthing center. Tell them your baby’s movements have changed, slowed down or stopped—whatever the situation may be.

When You Can’t Feel Movement

If you can’t feel your baby move, don’t panic, drink a glass of juice or ice cold water (some moms swear by this to get baby moving!) and walk around a little. Then try again. Never hesitate to call your provider if you haven’t felt your baby move recently. He or she will want to take a closer look at and listen to your baby.

If you’re concerned or you can’t reach your provider, never hesitate to act on your baby’s behalf by going to your local hospital’s emergency room or birthing center and tell them “My baby isn’t moving.” Don’t be concerned about false alarms.

Research is telling us that in parts of the country, and indeed in parts of the world, where healthcare providers asking moms to do kick counts, there’s no spike in office visits. Instead, mothers actually report decreased movement faster, which has helped reduce the number of babies dying in the womb—stillbirth.

Partner with Your Healthcare Provider

If your provider has asked you to keep track of kick counts, ask her or him how you should track them—whether to include the time of day, type of movements and how long it takes to achieve 10 moves counted, for example.

You know your own body and your baby best. Work with your provider to create a plan that works for you both. Enlist family and friends for support—do kick counts while your partner cleans up after a meal, or have your friend watch your other children while you put your feet up, relax, and bond with your baby.

Putting aside some quiet time each day getting to check in with your growing baby may seem like a challenge, but it’s time well spent.


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Michele Savin MSN, NNP-BC, is a neonatal nurse practitioner at Christiana Care Health Services in Wilmington, Delaware. She is also an expert advisor to Healthy Mom&Baby.


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