Is there such a thing as an increased baby movement before labor? Apparently, there is.
But before we delve deeper into the issue, cast your mind back to when you first felt your baby moving. It was such an exciting moment for you, wasn’t it? Then those flutters turned into hard kicks to your bladder, and what you once looked forward to is making you pee in your dress at the convenience store.
Still, the kicks remind you that your bulging belly isn’t just due to those tacos you ate at lunch, but because there’s indeed a baby inside you. And that’s awesome (except for when he’s practicing his kicking technique at 4 in the morning).
Baby Movement During Pregnancy
Most pregnant women feel more settled when there are regular baby movements. A movement of the baby (roll, kick, or flutter) is often first felt 18-20 weeks into pregnancy.
The number of movements steadily increases until around 32 weeks into pregnancy and then stays more or less frequent until childbirth.
Most babies stay still as they sleep, for up for 90 minutes at a time. Other times, they can be felt moving for 20 to 40-minute episodes throughout the day.
Each baby has its own movement patterns. While the baby runs out of room in the last stages of pregnancy due to increasing baby weight, it’s movements still remain regular and strong. But if your baby moves too much, or less frequently, there could be a problem.
When Does Baby Movement Start During Pregnancy?
Babies begin moving at week 12, but moms may not feel anything apart from “flutters” until week 16 to 20. That’s when the first kick is thrown. The kicks should intensify, along with twitches (baby hiccups), through to trimester 3, slightly slowing down at around 36 weeks when the womb gets too congested for vigorous kicking.
Babies are most lively in the evening and morning, and the easiest way for mom to detect movements is when she’s lying down or sitting. Dads, let mom relax if you want to know how a kick feels!
At the start of trimester 3, doctors usually recommend that moms and dads begin keeping an eye on baby movements. If you suspect the baby is kicking less than normal (even after week 36), call your doctor right away.
Babies don’t move at all times but, generally, have up to 10 movements per hour in trimester 3. And keep a close eye on whatever is unusual for your child. If your baby constantly bounces against your tummy in the morning, just one morning without movement may indicate that something’s wrong.
Is Increased Baby Movement Before Labor a Cause for Concern?
Fetal movements usually increase when mom is hungry, indicating decreased sugar levels in both the mother and baby. This is like the increase in activity of animals seeking food when hungry, followed by a moment of inactivity when they’re fed.
Smaller babies might move more when their blood sugar starts to drop or when they’re hungry, as for some reason they’re already getting less food through the placenta, compared to bigger babies who receive an adequate placental supply.
A much more serious spectacle is when one episode of unusually forceful baby movements occur in the last stages of pregnancy. One study has linked this phenomenon to 7 times the risk of stillbirth. There are several possible causes of this, including infection-induced seizures or inadequate oxygen supply, or the baby trying to free itself from the umbilical cord wrapped around some area of the body.
Vigorous baby movement before labor, described as “crazy” or “frantic”, is different from the increasingly frequent, strong movements felt in a healthy pregnancy leading to childbirth.
Dealing with Increased Fetal Movement
Each pregnancy is different. There’s no fixed number of kicks or movements your baby should make, so it’s unlikely that he’s moving “too much”.
But if your fetus is moving so much so that you can’t relax or rest, trying walking about for some time. Walking around will cause a rocking motion that can soothe your child in the womb—just as it’ll once you’ve given birth—and help her drift off so you can also get some rest.
Avoid caffeine, as it might stimulate your tot to get more active.
While a very active fetus is unlikely to be worrisome, you should pay attention to movements that are considerably different from what you consider normal. You should report any sudden, unexpected and vigorous episodes of movements immediately, particularly if they suddenly go up for some time followed by inactivity.
When it comes to increased baby movement before labor, always trust your gut and let your doctor or midwife know if something feels “off” to you.