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Fetal Movement Counting

What is fetal movement counting?

Fetal movement counting, often called kick counting, is a way a mother can help monitor the movements of her unborn baby by counting the number of kicks in a certain time period.

By 20 weeks gestation, most women are able to feel their baby's movements. But, movements vary in frequency, strength, and patterns depending on the maturity of the fetus. Generally, most fetuses have circadian (biologically timed) activity rhythms and tend to be more active in the evening hours, beginning as early as the second trimester. Hiccups are quite common, and a fetus may be more active about an hour after the mother eats due to the increase in blood glucose (sugar) in the mother's blood.

Fetal movement is one indicator of fetal health. Contrary to a common myth, it is not normal for a fetus to stop moving with the onset of labor. Each woman should find the usual pattern and number of movements for her individual pregnancy. As fetuses have sleep cycles, fetal kick counts may be done at any time of day. A change in the normal pattern or number of fetal movements may indicate the fetus is under stress.

How is fetal movement counting done?

Consult your doctor about the importance of fetal movement counting for your individual pregnancy.

Set aside the same time each day to do the counting. After a meal is often a good time.

There are several accepted ways to do kick counts and several different cutoffs as to how many kicks are normal in a certain time frame. Write down the number of times you feel the baby kick or move in one hour. After several days, you may find the baby usually moves about the same number of times per hour--this becomes your baseline number.

If your baby is not moving as much as usual, or takes longer to move in the usual length of time, or has stopped moving, call your doctor right away. Other testing can be done to check the condition of the baby.

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