Fetal Kick Counts
One of the most exciting milestones of pregnancy is feeling your baby move for the first time. This usually happens somewhere between 18 and 20 weeks gestation, according to the journal BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth.
As your pregnancy progresses, your doctor might suggest you start fetal kick counts. This practice of tracking your baby’s movement is meant to create awareness of the baby’s active and quiet times while allowing you to watch for changes in their activity levels.
All expecting parents in their third trimester can benefit from paying attention to their baby’s kicks and wiggles. (Intentionally counting kicks isn’t recommended before 28 weeks of gestation, since movements can vary quite a bit before you reach your third trimester). This guide will explain how to count kicks, including when to do it and how often. We’ll also dive into the benefits of the practice and when it might indicate it is time to call your doctor.
How to Count Kicks
There are different suggestions on how often pregnant people should do baby kick counts. For example, Michigan Medicine suggests performing kick counts daily during pregnancy at the same time each day while the World Health Organization doesn’t feel it is necessary to follow a daily routine unless you’ve been specifically directed by your doctor to do so.
The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology advocates talking with your provider first to find a frequency for tracking kick counts that works well for you. Making time for this habit daily might work well for busy parents with young kids or demanding jobs who struggle to remain mindful of fetal movements. This might also be something your doctor recommends if you’re considered high risk.
If you’re not sure where to start with fetal kick counts, here are some suggestions:
The Count to Ten Method
Some doctors encourage the use of the “count to ten” method. The expectant parent is instructed to count fetal kicks at the same time each day, looking for ten movements within 2 to 3 hours. Then, if the baby doesn’t move at least ten times in that timeframe, they’re told to reach out to their provider.
Learn Your Baby’s Patterns
The important part of fetal kick counts is becoming more aware of when your baby is usually more and less active. Each baby has their own patterns, according to BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. Knowing these patterns is the first step toward being aware when something changes.
Whether or not you’re doing scheduled kick counts, it is a good idea to take note of when your baby is usually active and when they seem to be asleep. This is important since research has associated expecting mother’s perception of decreased movement with an increased chance of stillbirth and other adverse outcomes.
Get Baby Moving
Although not an official kick count method, one easy way to make sure your baby is moving is, if you haven’t noticed movement in a while (easy to do when you’re a busy mom-to-be!), simply take a moment to be still or quiet and observe. If your baby still isn’t moving, try switching positioning, or eating a snack to see if that gets them moving.
Benefits of Fetal Kick Counts
Baby kick counts can help predict fetal health, according to the Journal of Caring Science. Pair this habit with regular prenatal care to take an active role in monitoring your baby’s wellbeing.
Baby kick counts aren’t guaranteed to prevent negative pregnancy outcomes, but they can increase awareness of changes, which may allow for successful intervention if something does change. The practice also supports bonding with your baby and may help decrease mom’s anxiety.
Bonding with Your Baby
Kick counts are a great way to slow down, rest, and connect with your baby. As a mom with younger kids, my days can easily be non-stop. During my last pregnancy, taking a few minutes with my baby to count kicks was the excuse I needed to rest a little each day.
And now that I’m expecting my fourth, I’m looking forward to this ritual as a way to connect with this baby and prepare myself emotionally for adding one more child to our family.
Providing the Reassurance You Need
If you find yourself worried about your baby from time to time, what you’re experiencing is normal! Tracking fetal movements is a good way to reassure yourself when you’re afraid something could go wrong.
This practice has actually been associated with fewer unnecessary visits to the doctor because it provides reassurance to expecting moms Sometimes all you need to lower stress during pregnancy is a few minutes to notice your baby is active and giving good, strong kicks. When in doubt, however, always call your provider—and never worry about bothering them, because your baby’s safety is always a priority.
Keeping Kick Counts Simple
The last time I was in a prenatal appointment, I found myself drawing a complete blank when my doctor asked me specific questions about my pregnancy so far. Whether or not you have younger kids, adding something like tracking movements to your already full to-do list can feel like more than you can handle.
To keep it simple, there are two ways you can track your kick counting:
- Notebook and Paper: A notebook and paper can be used for keeping track of your baby’s movements. This doesn’t have to be anything complicated. Write down the date, your starting time, and then a hashmark for each movement. Once you have counted 10 kicks, write down the time.
- An App to Count Kicks: Count the Kicks is a public health campaign encouraging mothers to start counting their baby’s movements at 28 weeks pregnant. They’ve also created a free application for both iOs and Android devices. According to users, the program is very easy to use and allows for you to track kicks by date and save them for future reference, like when you’re dealing with a little pregnancy fog at your prenatal check-up.