Anyone who has ever been pregnant will tell you that one of the best things about the experience is when you start to feel your baby move. Those little fluttery kicks are unlike anything else, and they’re so great they can even make all that morning sickness worth it (yes, really).
Anxiously awaiting these very special moments? We totally get it. Here’s the deal: You can probably expect baby to start gettin’ jiggy wit it during your second trimester.
But remember, every pregnancy is different, which means every woman will experience something slightly different. In other words, what happens for your BFF may not be the case for you.
While every pregnancy is a little bit different, there are some general guidelines on what you can expect when it comes to fetal movement.
- First trimester: You’ll feel very little movement or none at all.
- Second trimester: Expect fluttery kicks in the beginning that get stronger as time goes on.
- Third trimester: This is when you can expect stronger kicks and jabs.
First trimester: Hello? Anyone home?
During the first few weeks of pregnancy, your baby is growing and developing like crazy. Since there’s so much going on in there, you might assume you’ll feel something. But your baby is so tiny at this point that you’re not likely to feel any movement.
That doesn’t mean baby is just hanging out lazily in your womb, though: During your sonograms, you’ll notice that they’re already seemingly jumping up and down as they explore all the space they have in there.
Folks who have been pregnant before tend to feel movement earlier than first-timers. If this isn’t your first rodeo, you may feel flutters of movement as early as 13 to 16 weeks.
But if this is your first pregnancy, you most likely won’t feel anything until around the fifth month of pregnancy.
Second trimester: Oh, there you are!
The second trimester is when things start to get real. You’ll begin to notice a baby bump, and you’ll most likely experience the quickening.
No, we’re not talking about an oddly titled horror movie. “The quickening” is another term for baby’s first movements, which start, on average, around 18 to 20 weeks (although they can start as early as 13 to 14 weeks).
In the beginning, you shouldn’t expect full-blown kicks. Baby is still small and deep in your womb, so those initial movements are going to feel more like flutters or bubbles in your belly.
As your second trimester goes on, you’ll feel the movements getting a little stronger, and toward the end they may start to feel more like kicks than just butterflies.
Third trimester: OK, are you practicing karate in there?
Just as you’re beginning to adjust to those small movements, your third trimester begins, and baby reminds you that they’re starting to get juuuust a little squished in there.
In other words: Kicks, punches, and nudges become much more obvious, so there will be no questioning what you’re feeling.
As your baby grows and gets stronger, their movements will too. Toward the end of your third trimester, you may even feel actual pain thanks to your little one.
Shortly before birth, baby will be taking up so much space that their movement may decrease a bit (simply because they literally can’t move as much in there) but shouldn’t stop completely.
During labor/contractions: What’s happening?!
Baby may be getting ready to make their grand entrance into the world during labor, but don’t expect to feel them much, if at all.
However, you might feel movement if you experience Braxton-Hicks contractions. While Braxton-Hicks can feel so much like real contractions that you consider heading to the hospital, they’re not real labor — they’re just your body getting ready for real labor.
Braxton-Hicks will feel like your belly is tightening, and they’ll come and go throughout your third trimester (and maybe your second). You might feel your baby move during these “contractions,” or your baby’s movement could actually bring them on.
Baby movement isn’t always obvious, especially in the very beginning. During your second trimester, when you start to feel the baby move, you could easily confuse those movements for butterflies in your stomach, gas pains, or even hunger pangs.
You might think your belly just feels a little odd, but that could actually be the first little flutters.
Toward the end of your second trimester, as baby gets stronger, those feelings become way more than just flutters. Suddenly it feels like something is pushing against your skin, which is odd and exciting at the same time.
As the movements get stronger, they legitimately feel like kicks, punches, and jabs. In fact, a 2018 study found that between 20 and 30 weeks of pregnancy, movements can increase so significantly that your baby can kick you with up to 11 pounds of force!
If you notice a bunch of little ticking movements at once, don’t panic: Baby probably just has the hiccups.
Oh, and then the fun part comes: As your pregnancy progresses, you won’t just feel those movements, you’ll actually see them.
You might see your belly jutting out during particularly strong kicks or even just as baby rolls around. This can start to happen in the second or third trimester, depending on the person.
When can someone else feel it?
Those flutters in the beginning are for you and you alone — anyone placing their hand on your stomach isn’t going to feel them. But as a few weeks go by and baby gets stronger, other people will be able to feel the movement too.
This generally happens around 20 weeks, but — as with anything else — it can vary from person to person and pregnancy to pregnancy.
The frequency of baby movement will change throughout your pregnancy, and it can be so erratic that it could leave you feeling anxious. Honestly, though, baby movements can be really inconsistent, especially in the second trimester.
One day baby might be moving so much that you’re sure they’re about to make their way out. But the next day you may feel only a little movement. Things start to get a little more consistent in the third trimester, but even then it can vary.
You might also notice patterns of when your baby is active. They might move a lot in the morning and stay pretty still for the rest of the day. You might notice that they really start moving as you’re getting ready to go to sleep at night (a sign of things to come?).
Movement can also fluctuate depending on what you’re doing. Some women feel increased movement after they drink a glass of water or eat a meal. Some feel less movement while they’re walking or doing physical activity. Many feel more movement while lying down.
So… is there a normal amount of movement to expect?
Honestly? Not really. There’s no definition of normal fetal movement, which is why it can be hard to say exactly what to expect.
Once baby really starts moving, you should expect about 10 kicks or movements within 2 hours. But even if you don’t, that might not mean anything is wrong.
If you’re concerned, you can try keeping a count of the kicks you feel.
When you don’t feel a lot of movement even as your pregnancy progresses, it can understandably be a bit nerve-wracking. But there are a lot of reasons baby may not feel as active.
Your body weight
If you have a higher body weight, it might take longer to feel your baby move, or you might not ever feel baby move as much as some other pregnant women would.
This is because your abdominal wall is thicker, so there’s a bit more padding for those kicks to get through. It’s likely nothing to be concerned about.
The position of your placenta
If you have an anterior placenta, you might not feel baby move as early, or you may not feel strong movements.
The placenta usually sits on the top or side of the uterus, which means baby is closer to your skin. But sometimes the placenta attaches to the front of the uterus, closest to your belly (that’s what “anterior placenta” means), so there’s extra padding between your skin and baby.
The amount of amniotic fluid
Your baby is floating in a nice little bath of amniotic fluid. But if there’s less amniotic fluid, they won’t be able to move around as much.
Only about 4 percent of pregnant women experience low amniotic fluid. Your healthcare provider will monitor your fluid level and tell you whether this is a concern for you and what to do about it.
Your baby’s position
The way your baby is positioned in your womb could change things up too: If their back is lying at the front of your uterus, you might feel less movement.
As you can see, there are a few reasons you might not feel a ton of movement, and most of them are nothing to worry about.
But there are times when a lack of fetal movement could mean something is up. Contact your healthcare provider if you feel like something is wrong or notice a significant change in fetal movement.
If you haven’t felt movement by 24 weeks
If you haven’t felt so much as a flutter by 24 weeks, you should call your healthcare provider to have them check in on baby.
If things change suddenly
Say your baby is very active and you feel movements all the time… and then, suddenly, hours go by and you realize you haven’t felt a thing.
Try getting baby to move by drinking a large glass of water, eating a snack, lying down, and waiting a bit. If nothing happens within a few hours, you may want to contact your provider.
Remember: You know your baby’s movements the best, and if something feels off, there’s no harm in getting an expert’s opinion.