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When Can You Expect to Feel Your Unborn Baby Moving?

By: Rachel Newcombe - Updated: 7 Feb 2011 | comments*Discuss
Baby Uterus Womb Movement Kick Kicking

Pregnancy is an exciting time full of new experiences, but one of the best moments has to be when you first feel a tiny kick or movement in your womb. But when can you expect to first feel your unborn baby moving around?

When you first become aware of your baby moving around inside you, it’s a wonderful – if not slightly surreal – experience. For many first time mums, it makes pregnancy seem more ‘real’ and brings with it the certainty that you really do have a tiny baby inside your womb.

Babies can be quite active in the womb from as early as 12 weeks of age, but it’s generally not apparent to mums. Some women are able to associate the light, fluttering, wind-type symptoms they experience from about 16 weeks onwards as the first tiny kicks of a baby, but it’s perfectly normal not to fully realise this is what it is.

This is known as ‘quickening’ and may be easier to recognise when you’ve been pregnant before.

The First Real Kick From Your Baby

It’s not until about the 18 to 22 week stage that your baby is able to move around more and is much more likely to produce their first proper kick – or the first kick that feels ‘proper’ to you.

Your baby won’t move all the time, and they’ll be some days when you may not notice any movement at all. But from 20 weeks onwards they’ll be gradually getting stronger and their activity can increase. As well as small kicks, you may be able to feel it as your baby moves around in the womb.

Between 24 and 28 weeks, you may even begin to feel it as your baby experiences their first hiccups! It may not be clear what this is at first, but it feels a bit like a sudden jerking movement in your tummy.

Your baby’s movements naturally reach a bit of a plateau by around 32 weeks gestation. This is simply because by then they’ll have grown a lot and have far less room in which to move around in the womb.

However, at around 36 weeks, you may well begin to notice more sharp, painful or jabbing sensations. These will be from both your baby’s arms and legs, and can be quite painful if they kick or thump you in the ribs. In the final run-up to the birth, movement may be less prominent, which is perfectly normal.

What If You Don’t Feel Your Baby Move?

If you can’t feel your baby moving, don’t panic. Sometimes the placenta can be located in the front of your baby – which is medically termed an anterior placenta. This can have a cushioning effect, so that you don’t feel your baby moving so much or at all.

If you’re normally aware of movements, but think it’s slowed down, then it may simply be because your baby is tired. They can be influenced by what you’re doing, and the food and drink you’re eating, so having a rest, relaxing, making sure you’re having plenty of fluids or having a healthy snack could all help encourage your baby to move.

If you’re really worried by lack of movement, then always speak to your midwife, as they can do checks to ensure everything is okay.

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