Pregnancy tip

When you see your midwife ask her to explain what she can feel with her hands when she examines your belly - it can be really interesting to find out where your baby is lying.

Baby movement in the womb

Information on baby movement in the womb during pregnancy covering what you baby's movements can tell you and when to seek advice.

This article covers several matters including what it means if your baby is kicking low, with answers to questions like 'when does a baby start kicking?' and more.

Most pregnant women start to feel their baby's movements sometime during the second trimester (13-27 weeks) of their pregnancy. 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 baby movement feel like?

The movements might feel like taps or pops at first and then become more distinct as the baby grows and gets stronger. You might feel the baby kicking, punching, stretching, swishing and rolling.

Later in pregnancy, your baby will take up all the space in your womb. He should still move as often as before and the movements should still be strong, but the foetal movement will feel different because of increasingly restricted space.

Patterns in baby movement

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 and you will get to know your baby's pattern.

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 ever notice a change in the pattern of your baby's movements take a rest, lie down if you can, have a drink, eat something sweet and see what happens. If your baby wakes up and starts moving as usual that's fine. If not you should speak to someone urgently.

When should you be concerned about your baby's movements?

If you are concerned about your baby’s movements, The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) advises lying down on your left for two hours - if there have not been 10 distinct, strong and obvious movements in that time, call your midwife or antenatal unit.

You might be able to contact your midwife directly but if not you can call the hospital where you are registered any time, day or night, to get advice and support. If you are planning a home birth you can contact the hospital where you had a scan or where your blood tests were processed. If you are worried about your baby and you are away from home, contact the nearest maternity hospital.

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 her to explain what she can feel with her hands when she examines your belly - it can be really interesting to find out where your baby is lying.

Trust your instincts

Remember that babies should move strongly even at the end of your pregnancy - the baby movements might feel different but they should still be strong. Trust your instincts and seek help if you need it. Checking your baby is OK might involve a visit to hospital or your GP’s surgery and listening with an electronic monitor for a few minutes. The resulting peace of mind will probably be worth the trip.

Further information

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 published information and guidelines on foetal movements.