Feeling that fluttering in the belly already? Whether it's your first baby or one of several children, these kicks will always be an exciting part of getting to experience the little one in your womb.
First time mothers can take longer to recognize these kicks as they could easily feel like gas or a mere flutter. For more experienced mums, it is easier to catch when the baby starts moving.
These movements could be anything from your baby stretching, changing sides, or simply reacting to stimuli that you expose your belly to.
What makes my baby bump move?
Commonly felt fetal reactions are a result of music, light, touch, and the food you eat. You’ll find that talking to your belly will probably get some form of movement, as will touching it.
Music has been associated with fetal development; and while we can’t say for certain that your baby will love Bach once born, you will certainly feel him respond when you turn up the volume on your current playlist. It's not only music that may have long term effects. A studyi conducted by the National Academy of Sciences suggests that babies learn to recognize words too, while still inside the womb.
By week 26, your little one can now open his or her beautiful eyes and blinkii, and his retina continues to develop. Your baby may now even be able to react to light outside the womb. Although his vision is still quite blurry, bright sources of light can trigger some movement from your baby.
A mother’s touch is an effective way of getting a response from inside the womb. In a studyiii on fetal behavioral responses, mothers rubbing their bellies resulted in their unborn babies displaying more arm, head, and mouth movements.
Too much or too little movement?
It is good practice to be aware of your baby's movements. Beginning around 28 weeks (third trimester), spend some time each day counting your baby's kicks. A healthy baby will usually move at least 10 times in two hours when he/she is awake. If you find that your baby is moving too much, making you uncomfortable, or if you have any concerns, try to sit in a quiet place and focus on feeling your baby's movements. If you still feel unsure or anxious, contact your doctor immediately.iv
Stress is another stimulus that can have a counterproductive effect on movement. In a studyv under the John Hopkins Fetal Development project, it was shown that the psychological state of the mother affects fetal neurobehavior, activity, and growth.
To keep stress levels at bay, try different forms of exercise such as yoga after advise of your doctor. These provide physical activity along with mental relaxation, both going a long way in keeping your overall health in check.
If you have noticed that your baby is not moving as much, don’t panic. Babies in the belly sleep as much, if not more, than after they are born. The lack of movement could mean a resting period. In case of prolonged period where you do not feel a movement, please consult your doctor.
If by 24 weeks, you still have never felt your baby move, contact your doctor to make sure your baby is healthy and developing well.
Accordingvi to the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, fetal position also influences whether you can feel the movement or not. If the spine lays anteriorly, you may not be able to perceive any movement despite being able to visualize them during an ultrasound exam. Also if you are highly overweight (above 80 kg) the chances of feeling decreased fetal movements is higher.vii
Keep your doctor’s number at hand to rule out any complications or to address your worries. Stay informed, invest in your and your baby’s nutrition and health, and get ready for a wonderful birthing experience.
i Partanen, E., Kujala, T., Naatanen, R., Liitola, A., Sambeth, A., & Huotilainen, M. (2013). Learning-induced neural plasticity of speech processing before birth. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,110(37), 15145-15150. doi:10.1073/pnas.1302159110
ii You and your baby at 25-28 weeks pregnancy - Pregnancy and baby guide. (2017, February 28). Retrieved Aprl 10, 2017, from http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/pregnancy-weeks-25-26-27-28.aspx
iii Marx, V., & Nagy, E. (2015). Fetal Behavioural Responses to Maternal Voice and Touch. Plos One,10(6). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0129118
iv Pregnancy—your baby's movements and what they mean. Retrieved 7 June 2017 from, http://brochures.mater.org.au/home/brochures/mater-mothers-hospital/preg...
v Dipietro, J. A., Hilton, S. C., Hawkins, M., Costigan, K. A., & Pressman, E. K. (2002). Maternal stress and affect influence fetal neurobehavioral development. Developmental Psychology,38(5), 659-668. doi:10.1037//0012-16126.96.36.1999
vi Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists. (2011). Reduced Fetal Movements (Green-top Guideline No. 57). Retrieved from https://www.rcog.org.uk/globalassets/documents/guidelines/gtg_57.pdf