Here we look at your baby's movement in the womb during pregnancy including what your baby's movements can tell you and when to seek help.
During your pregnancy, feeling your baby move can give you a sense of reassurance about their wellbeing. Understanding and recognising your baby's movements is also important because it can help you notice if something isn't right (read more below).
When will I start to feel my baby kicking or moving?
During pregnancy, many women want to know: 'when will I feel my baby kicking or moving?' Generally, women start to feel their baby's movements some time during the second trimester (13-27 weeks) of their pregnancy. If this is your first pregnancy, you may not become aware of movements until you're more than 20 weeks pregnant. If you've been pregnant before, you may feel movements as early as 16 weeks.
If your placenta is at the front of your womb it may take a little longer, as the placenta cushions you from the baby kicking. Try not to feel anxious about these early movements as all babies are different and mums-to-be will feel their babies at different points towards the end of their second trimester.
What does my baby’s movement tell me?
You might get some useful clues about your baby's position from where the kicks are felt. Head-down babies will kick more strongly on one side and towards the top of the bump. Later on, some babies with their head at the bottom like to stretch their legs every so often and this can feel like something is sticking out on both sides of your bump - one side will be the bottom, the other side will be the feet.
Breech babies with their feet below their bottom will kick at the bottom of the bump. When you see your midwife ask them to explain what they can feel with their hands when they examine your belly - it can be really interesting to find out where your baby is lying.
What does baby movement feel like?
The movements might feel like taps or pops at first and then become more distinct as your baby grows and gets stronger. You might feel your baby kicking, punching, stretching, swishing and rolling.
Later in pregnancy, your baby will take up all the space in your womb. They should still move as often as before and their movements should still be strong though the movement will feel different because of the increasingly restricted space. Importantly, you should continue to feel your baby move right up to the time you go into labour. Your baby should move during labour too.
Is there a 'normal' amount of baby movement?
There's no specific number of movements that's considered to be normal. What's important is noticing and telling your midwife about any reduction or change in your baby's normal movements.
Many babies develop a pattern to their movements, maybe being more active after a meal, in the early morning or late at night. They are all individuals so get to know your baby's pattern. This is the safest and most reliable method of monitoring their movements and will help you determine if your baby has a period of reduced or increased movement.
Some babies experience hiccups in the womb. If your baby is hiccupping, your bump jumps every few seconds just like you would if you were hiccupping.
If you notice your baby is moving less than usual, or if you've noticed a change in their pattern of movements, it may be the first sign that your baby is unwell. You should contact your midwife or local maternity unit immediately so your baby's wellbeing can be assessed. Checking your baby is OK might involve a visit to hospital or your GP’s surgery and listening to your baby with an electronic monitor for a few minutes.
If you are planning a home birth, contact your midwife. If you're worried about your baby and you are away from home, contact the nearest maternity hospital.
It's important to trust your instincts and seek help if you need it.
Page last updated: January 2016
NCT's helpline offers practical and emotional support in all areas of pregnancy, birth and early parenthood: 0300 330 0700. We also offer antenatal courses which are a great way to find out more about birth, labour and life with a new baby.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynacologists has information and guidelines on your baby's movement during pregnancy.