Feeling your baby kick is not only a wonderful pregnancy perk, but also can be a valuable source of information about your baby’s overall state; in general, an active baby is a healthy one. This simple, noninvasive test can help you feel reassured every day that baby is doing well and can also be an early clue of something that may need your healthcare provider’s attention.
What is a Kick Count?
A kick count is the measurement of how long it takes to feel 10 fetal movements while the mother is at rest and focused on counting. Usually you will feel this amount of activity within 15 minutes. However, if 10 kicks are not present in one hour, there may be a cause for concern. A decrease in fetal movement could indicate a problem, such compromised blood flow or low oxygen levels that requires prompt medical attention.
Changes During the Third Trimester
Babies move frequently in the womb beginning at about eight weeks gestation. Mothers typically do not feel these movements until about 20 weeks, though some women may experience those first flutters a little earlier or later. Even though you may feel your baby kicking during the second trimester, these movements are considered to be too random to be a reliable gauge of baby’s health. By the time the last trimester has begun at week 28, uterine space is running out and baby has grown strong enough for the mother to feel all but the tiniest fetal activity. Your baby moves around to help themselves relax or get comfortable, to stretch out their limbs and in response to things like light, sound and even being poked or pushed from outside the womb. According to WebMD, the average baby has about 30 movements per hour during the third trimester. By this time, baby has also established a more stable sleep/wake pattern.
How to Perform an Accurate Kick Count
Since healthcare practitioners vary in their protocols for kick counts to be done one, two or three times daily, follow your provider’s instructions. Choose a time when you have noticed baby being active in the past. Babies tend to be quietest in the afternoons, so mornings and evenings are usually the best times to count. Sit or lie down where you can easily see a clock and note the time when you begin. Even though it is called a “kick” count, all swishes, rolls and pokes should be counted. You should be alert for 10 distinct movements and any type of stirring meets the requirement. The exception to this rule is fetal hiccups; since they are an involuntary reflex, hiccups do not accurately reflect your baby’s condition. According to the American Pregnancy Association, it can be helpful to use a notebook to record both the times you start the count and when the baby has reached 10 kicks. This record can help you learn your baby’s patterns and also help you detect a significant change in activity, if one should occur.
When to Call the Doctor
If you have been actively counting for an hour and not felt 10 kicks, lie down if you are not already doing so. Have a sweet drink or a snack, as sugar will usually stimulate a baby to move. If another hour passes and you still have not felt 10 kicks, or if you note a sudden decrease in fetal activity, a call to your healthcare provider is in order. Your practitioner may tell you to try counting for another hour or they may want you to be seen in the office. Whatever your provider’s instructions, be sure to follow them exactly, and never be afraid to call your provider with any questions.