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What does fetal movement or a kick count indicate?

Paula Greer
Midwifery Nursing Specialist

Kick counts are a way for mom to check in on how her baby is doing. All babies are different and some are more active than others but all babies whether a soccer player or a quieter baby should be moving every day. Less than 10 movements in a 12-hour period may be cause for concern. Most babies will be more active after mom has eaten. It is important to note that in the end of the pregnancy when the baby settles down into the birth canal the movements will become wiggles and squiggles and no more belly flops and full extension punches. Even though the character of movements will change your baby should still be sleeping, waking and stretching on a regular basis. If you have any concerns contact your health care provider.

Even if you can hear your baby's heartbeat with a Doppler device, fetal movement or kick counts are still important. A change in the baby’s heartbeat is one of the last things that occurs when a baby is in distress. Daily monitoring of movements allows you to detect a change in your baby's activity. A significant change in fetal movement may identify potential problems before actual changes in the heart rate are detected. By the time the heart slows or stops, it may be too late to intervene.

Some medical authorities think that a fetus’ activity levels indicate a lot about the baby’s well being. Fetal movement or a kick count refers to the spontaneous fetal movements that a mother notices. Unfortunately, there is no universal consensus on a good number of fetal movements. Certain doctors say less than 10 movements in a 12-hour period is worrisome while others say less than four movements in one hour is a concern. The baby’s position, the mother’s blood-sugar level, her occupation and eating habits, sound, light, and physical stimulus to the uterus all affect fetal movement. Also, each fetus has a typical movement rhythm, and each pregnant mother has a different ability to recognize the baby’s movement. One point is certain: Fetal activity is reassuring, and inactivity may need further evaluation. Contact your doctor if you notice the fetus’ activity has diminished considerably.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.