What Does a Baby Kick Feel Like?
Feeling your baby’s first kick can be an exciting and overwhelming experience. Experiencing the physical proof that there is a little person moving inside you is incredibly meaningful.
At the same time, it can be stressful if you’re not feeling your baby’s first movements as early or as frequently as you thought you would. It can be hard to identify what those feelings are, and you might mistake those movements for something else.
This article should help you to feel prepared for the moment you feel your baby move for the first time by providing you with an in-depth look at when you might feel your baby kick, what those movements can feel like, and where you normally feel them.
When Can You Start to Feel Your Baby Kick?
Those first movements that you feel your baby making inside your womb are called quickening. This is an absolutely thrilling moment, which you can easily miss if you aren’t paying attention.
Babies actually move as early as the ninth week, but you probably won’t be able to feel it. Sometime in the fifth month, a baby can give a ‘hello’ kick.
For first-time moms, this may be more difficult to notice, as they won’t have experienced it before. First-time moms will probably sense quickening at 20 weeks.
For moms who have given birth before, it is likely they’ll be familiar with the feeling and will start sensing those movements as early as 16 weeks. Also, the muscles in their uterus aren’t as tight and may be more sensitive to those kicks.
Other factors that can affect when you’ll feel your baby kick include:
- Where your placenta is located: If your placenta is located in the front between the womb and belly (also called the anterior placenta), it can make it more challenging to sense kicks.
- Your baby’s activity level: Every baby is different, some are more active than others!
What Does a Baby Kick Feel Like?
Every pregnancy is different because every baby is different. Internal movements and feelings can vary from person to person. Some women describe these fetal kicks as little flutters of butterfly wings flapping inside them; others feel a faint twitch or a punch.
You might even think you are feeling hunger pangs or gas bubbles. Sometimes, it may even feel like taps, wiggles, rolls or tumbles.
After a while, you might be able to tune into your little one’s sleep/wake schedule. During the day, as you’re moving around, these motions can lull your baby to sleep. Then when you lie down to rest, your baby might wake and move around. There’s a beautiful irony to this, because it will prepare you for the life of parenting!
Here are some tips to get your baby active so that you can feel your baby move:
- Go for a walk
- Gently rub or tap your belly
- Put music on
- Have someone speak close to your belly
- Eat a meal or something with sugar in it like a glass of juice
- Close your eyes and sit quietly with your hands on your belly. Try to concentrate and feel whether your baby is moving.
Although your baby’s activity at this time might seem like an intentional plan to get you used to staying up all night, it probably means that you’re simply more focused and aware of their movements than you are when you’re active yourself.
In the beginning, it can be confusing to know exactly what you’re feeling. Your baby’s movements are slight and subtle because of how small they are. However, as your baby grows and its movements become stronger and more frequent, you will become more familiar with your baby’s movement pattern.
Where Do You Feel Your Baby Kick?
Where you feel those movements depend on which fetal development stage your baby is at.
Typically, you will feel those first movements in your lower belly close to your pubic bone. This is because, at 12 weeks, that’s how far your uterus has grown. At 20 weeks, the top of your uterus has grown to where your belly button is. So you will feel movement below your belly button.
Then as your pregnancy progresses into your third trimester, your uterus will extend from your pubic bone to the bottom of your rib cage. You will start to feel stronger kicks, jabs, stretches, punches and even somersaults. You may even sense when your baby has hiccups.
Your baby’s position in the womb also affects where you will feel those movements. If they are head down with their feet up against your ribs, you will feel their kicks higher up in your abdomen. If they are faced head up with their feet towards your cervix, the movements will occur in your lower abdomen. If they are laying sideways, you will feel those kicks on your right or left side depending on where their feet are.
What If I Don't Feel a Kick?
Generally, you should feel some fetal movement by 24 weeks. At 28 weeks, you should be able to feel your baby move at least 10 times every two hours.
Fetal movements are crucial for your baby’s bone, joint and muscle growth and development. All that kicking, elbowing and somersaulting helps prepare them when they leave the womb. The movements can come and go; however, if you don’t feel your baby moving at all, there could be an issue with your placenta or the level of amniotic fluid.
It’s important to speak with your midwife, physician or obstetrician if you’re concerned about your baby’s movement. Your healthcare provider can assess how your baby is developing by seeing them on an ultrasound or listening to their heart with a fetal heart monitor.
Your ob-gyn may recommend you do a kick count if you sense your baby is moving less than usual. A kick count is a test where you count the number of movements your baby makes over a period of time. Contact your healthcare provider if your baby doesn’t move at least 10 times in two hours.
If the heartbeat is strong and all other vital signs are stable, there’s no reason to worry about your baby’s development. It might simply be that you’re due later than you thought!
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Katharine is the author of three books, has been published in scientific journals, and has co-authored chapters in health research books.