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Fetal Movement Counting

Fetal movement counting, often called kick counting, monitors the movements of an unborn baby by counting the number of kicks during a certain time period.

By 20 weeks gestation, most women are able to feel their baby's movements. But, depending on the age and maturity of the fetus, the movements vary in frequency, strength and patterns. Generally, most fetuses have circadian (biologically timed) activity rhythms and tend to be more active in the evening hours, beginning as early as the second trimester. Hiccups are quite common, and a fetus may be more active about an hour after the mother eats due to the increase in blood glucose (sugar) in the mother's blood.

Fetal movement is one indicator of fetal health. Contrary to a common myth, it is not normal for a fetus to stop moving with the onset of labor. Each woman should figure out which patterns and movements are normal for her pregnancy. As fetuses have sleep cycles, fetal kick counts may be done at any time of day. A change in the normal pattern or number of fetal movements may indicate the fetus is under stress.

How is fetal movement counting done?

One method is to set aside an hour, at the same time each day, to do the counting. After a meal is often a good time. Write down the number of times you feel your baby kick or move during the hour. Do this for several days. If the baby has moved about the same number of times per hour, this will be your baseline number.

There are several accepted ways to do kick counts, and what’s normal for your baby might not be normal for another. Consult your health care provider about the best method of fetal movement counting for your individual pregnancy.

If your baby is not moving as much as usual, takes longer to move in the usual length of time, or has stopped moving, call your health care provider right away. Other testing can be done to check your baby’s condition.