When I was pregnant with my oldest, my daughter would start kicking anytime I turned on upbeat music (often driving home from work). I’d break into a big smile and shimmy along with her at the next red light. It’s no surprise that now, at almost five years of age, dance and music are two of her favorite things!
Of course, my daughter’s pronounced fetal movements mainly happened during the end of my second trimester and into my third trimester. For first-time pregnant moms, fetal movements generally can be felt around 16-22 weeks of pregnancy, during the second trimester. According to the American Pregnancy Association, there is a broad range when those first movements from baby can be felt, ranging from 13-25 weeks.
The first stirrings you’ll feel inside the womb are called “quickening.” Biologically, this alerts mom that there is indeed a baby growing inside! Most healthcare providers recommend that pregnant women self-monitor their fetal movements, especially during the third trimester or around 28 weeks gestation and for the rest of the pregnancy. In addition to being checked by your healthcare practitioner, moms can conduct a fetal movement count (FMC) or a “kick count” independently.
Women are encouraged to “count to ten” or feel for ten baby movements within an hour. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, this can be kicks, flutters, swishes, or rolls. Count the Kicks is a great app to use that helps you track these movements. Contact a clinician and let them know if less than ten movements are experienced in a 2-3 hour window. Northwestern Medicine Women’s Health recommends contacting your healthcare provider if you do not feel ten kicks in one hour. Fetal monitoring is important because it may help reduce stillbirth and improve maternal-child bonding during pregnancy.
So, how can you encourage your baby to kick and wiggle? Read below to learn how to get your baby to move during pregnancy!
Making noise or playing music is a great way to connect with—and elicit a response from—your baby in the womb. Singing, talking, or playing an instrument for your baby can prompt her to move about. A lively television show or conversation with your partner may also make her kick! At around 18 weeks, babies can start to hear sounds.
One of the easiest ways to inspire your baby to dance and wiggle is to eat a bite of food. The rise in blood sugar encourages them to move. Try a banana, cookie, piece of cheese, or handful of berries.
The sugars naturally occurring in one cup of orange juice will boost your baby’s movements (and energize you!). Plus, Vitamin C is a great antioxidant for your body! Don’t overdo it on the sugar in your diet, as too much sugar is problematic for gestational diabetes.
Caffeine is a stimulant, which increases your blood pressure and heart rate, so caffeine should be consumed minimally and with care. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that pregnant women consume no more than 200 mg of caffeine per day.
Jump up and down, perform a couple of jumping jacks, or jog in place for about 30 seconds, then rest. Repeat a few more times until you feel your heart rate increasing. Then take a sip of water and walk slowly. You may feel your baby moving after the jumping due to your large movements and increased pulse. Walking slowly afterward gently brings your heart rate back down.
Some expectant moms report that their baby becomes most active at night—right when they’re trying to fall asleep! If it’s daytime, try lying down on your couch or bed for a nap. Sometimes changing position or rolling from right to left can stimulate your baby and cause them to shift position, too.
Feel free to press or nudge him back gently if you feel the baby’s elbow or foot pressing against your abdominal wall. You may want to add a few cooing noises or kind words, as hearing your voice and feeling your touch can rally your little one to poke you back!
Do you wake up and stretch in the morning when the sun hits your face or your partner turns on the overhead light? Your little one may also be able to sense and respond to light versus dark during her second trimester. Try shining a flashlight on top of your tummy and see if your baby responds with a movement or a kick!
Every baby has a different personality and will grow at its own pace. Likewise, the rate at which they start moving around may vary from pregnancy to pregnancy. Notice your baby’s regular movement style, and use that as your baseline. Talk to your clinician about any questions or concerns you may have, and in the meantime, turn up your favorite song and have fun dancing with your little one while he’s still inside your tummy!