Baby Movements in Pregnancy
Being a midwife this is a subject close to my heart. Getting the message across about the importance of baby movements is an incredibly important message to spread. It is also vital to know the facts and not just chat amongst people who think they know best. The information below is taken from my experience of 13 years of midwifery and The Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Green Top Guidelines regarding reduced fetal movements.
FACT: Most women feel their baby move for the first time between 16 and 22 weeks. For some women this may be earlier, for example women having a multiple pregnancy or its not their first baby.
FACT: Women describe these movements as fluttering or swishing.
FACT: You should gradually feel your baby move more throughout your pregnancy up till about 32 weeks when they remain similar each day. Baby movements do not slow down towards the end of pregnancy.
“Baby movements DO NOT slow down towards the end of the pregnancy”.
FACT: A healthy happy baby moves around frequently throughout the day and night. A compromised baby conserves their energy by slowing down their movements.
FACT: Towards the end of pregnancy the TYPE of movements may change as there is less room, so instead of big turns and swift limb movements its more like shifting, nudging and stretching movements. The frequency or the number of movements should NOT decrease.
FACT: It used to be the case that mums were asked to ‘count the kicks’ and health professionals stated what was considered a normal number of movements for unborn babies. We now know that every baby is different.
FACT: It is advised to be familiar with your baby’s movements and if you are concerned that the movements have changed, slowed down or stopped then you MUST contact your maternity unit asap.
FACT: It is NOT advised that you use your own hand held doppler at home. Why? The presence of a heartbeat does not always mean a happy healthy baby. Only health professionals are trained to know what is a normal heartbeat and what is abnormal.
What will happen once I have contacted my maternity unit?
If you less than 28 weeks of pregnancy:
Your baby’s heart beat will be listened to using a hand held doppler.
If you are more than 28 weeks of pregnancy:
Your baby’s heart beat will first be listened to using a hand held doppler and then followed by continuous fetal monitoring via a machine. Which means you will be asked to lie on a couch or sit in a chair whist attached via belts and leads to a doppler machine. This will record your baby’s heart beat pattern. Your bump will be measured to assess the growth of your baby. You will be asked a number of questions. You may have an ultrasound scan (this depends on your medical history and lifestyle and also the policies of the maternity unit).
If you attend with recurrent reduced fetal movements the above will be carried out and you should have an ultrasound scan and a review by the obstetrician. The risk of a poor outcome is increased with recurrent reduced fetal movements. So please do not ignore it.
If all examinations and assessments prove reassuring, continue to monitor your baby’s movements.
If you are concerned again, even if its the same day or soon after your last visit to the maternity unit then PLEASE call them again for another assessment.
Midwives and obstetricians would see you every day if you are concerned, sending you home after a reassuring assessment rather than seeing you after you’ve sat at home worrying for a few days and then have to break bad news.
So in summary
Monitor your baby’s movements, become familiar with them.
It is NOT NORMAL for baby movements to slow down towards the end of the pregnancy.
If you are concerned about your baby’s movements, call your maternity unit now, never leave it till the next day.
Never rely on a hand held doppler of your own at home to reassure yourself.
Attend the maternity unit for appropriate assessments.
If all assessments are reassuring, try and relax but,
If you are concerned again, even if it’s soon after your last assessment PLEASE CALL YOUR MATERNITY UNIT AGAIN.