Is your baby moving in the tummy already? It’s an amazing feeling to finally have your child kicking and moving about in the womb. Your little pro footballer is growing in leaps and bounds, all the while showing you how much! Though it may cause a little discomfort sometimes, it often brings a lot of joy to parents. Many expectant mothers have questions about whether their baby is moving too much or too little at one time or another. Here, we share with you:
Feeling that fluttering in the belly already? Whether it's your first baby or one of several children, these baby kicks will always be an exciting part of getting to experience the little one in your womb.
First-time mothers can take longer to recognise these baby kicks, as they could easily feel like gas or a mere flutter. For more experienced moms, it is easier to catch them when the baby starts getting more active. These baby-moving-in-tummy motions could indicate that your baby is stretching, changing sides, or simply reacting to stimuli that your belly is exposed to.
Baby Moving in Tummy: What Makes Them Move?
Commonly felt foetal movement is usually your baby’s reaction to music, light, and touch. You’ll find that talking to your belly will get the baby moving in tummy immediately, as well as when you touch it.
Music has been associated with foetal movement and development. While we can’t say for certain that your baby will love Bach once born, you will certainly feel the baby 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 recognise words while still inside the womb.
By week 26, your little one can now open their beautiful eyes and blink2. As their retinas continue to develop, your baby may now even be able to react to light outside the womb. Although their vision is still quite blurry, bright sources of light can trigger some movement in your baby.
A mother’s touch is an effective way of getting a response from inside the womb. In a study3 on foetal behavioural responses, mothers rubbing their bellies resulted in their unborn babies displaying more arm, head, and mouth movements.
Baby Moving in Tummy: Too Much or Too Little Movement?
It is good practice to be aware of your baby's movements. At around 28 weeks (third trimester), spend some time each day counting your baby's kicks. An active foetus in womb will usually move at least 10 times in two hours when it is awake. If you find that your 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 the baby moving in tummy. If you still feel unsure or anxious, contact your doctor immediately4.
Stress is another stimulus that can have a counterproductive effect on movement. In a study5 under the John Hopkins Foetal Development project, it was shown that the psychological state of the mother affects foetal neuro-behaviour, activity, and growth.
To keep stress levels at bay, try different forms of exercise, such as yoga, with clearance from your doctor. These provide physical activity along with mental relaxation, both of which go a long way towards keeping your overall health in check.
If you have noticed that your baby is not moving as much, don’t panic. Babies in the belly sleep as much, if not more, than after they are born. The lack of movement could mean a resting period. In the event of a prolonged period where you do not feel your baby moving in tummy, please consult your doctor. If, by 24 weeks, you still have not felt the first movements of your baby , contact your doctor to make sure your baby is healthy and developing well.
According to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists6, foetal position also influences whether you can feel the movement or not. If the spine of the foetus lies in the anterior position, you may not be able to perceive any movement despite being able to see a form during an ultrasound exam. Also, if you are highly overweight (above 80 kg), the chances of feeling decreased foetal movements is higher7.
Always consult your doctor to rule out any complications or to address your worries. Stay informed, invest in the nutrition and health of both you and your baby to prepare for a joyful birthing experience.
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Frequently Asked Questions
This is such an exciting phase in your pregnancy, and we’re sure you have more questions! Here, we answer 3 more FAQs from expectant moms on baby moving in tummy.
What does foetal movement feel like?⁴
Foetal activity indicates a healthy nervous and musculoskeletal system. Most women describe foetal movements as subtle or pronounced kicks, flutters, swishes, or rolls. And just like adults, babies go through cycles of rest and sleep, so do expect more movement during waking hours.
What are some myths about baby movement?⁴
You should typically be able to feel your baby move for the first time around your 16th to 24th week of pregnancy. It is a misconception that babies tend to move less during the latter part of the pregnancy due to being constricted in the womb. In fact, you should feel movement all the way up to labour. To note what is normal foetal activity, familiarise yourself with your baby’s behaviours and patterns.
Another myth is that eating or drinking will stimulate or encourage your baby to move more. This is untrue.
I’m not really sure if it’s gas or my baby moving. How do I know⁸?
Research states that women are LESS able to perceive baby activity if they’re standing or sitting. So if you’d like to get a better feel of your baby’s movement, lie down in a quiet room and carefully take note of the subtle kicks and flutters. Lying on your left side, in particular, is said to help recognize the movements more clearly. If you have any concerns about your baby’s movement, such as a reduction in their activity, consult your doctor immediately.
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Dr Veena Angle
MBBS, MD Microbiology (India)
Partanen, 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.
You 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….
Marx, V., & Nagy, E. (2015). Fetal Behavioural Responses to Maternal Voice and Touch. Plos One,10(6). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0129118.
Pregnancy—your baby's movements and what they mean. Retrieved 7 June 2017 from, http://brochures.mater.org.au/home/brochures/mater-mothers-hospital/preg….
Dipietro, 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//0012-16126.96.36.1999.
Royal 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.
Tuffnell, DJ, Cartmill, RS, & Lilford, RJ. (1991). Fetal movements; factors affecting their perception. Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol., 10: 39(3): 165-7.
When to worry about decreased foetal movement. Dec 06, 2022. https://www.verywellfamily.com/what-to-do-if-your-baby-is-not-kicking-2371400.