Understanding Prenatal Kicks


There’s something special about that first kick you feel from the tiny baby growing in your womb. Your hands may constantly rub your rounded tummy so you don’t miss a movement. Each flutter you feel on the inside blows your mind again and again-another life is developing inside you! Then, as your baby gets bigger and stronger, each kick becomes more forceful, and the magic might fade. Now, when your bundle of joy thrusts his elbow into your rib, you may wince in shock at his strength. Or you roll your eyes because, of course she wants to practice playing soccer while you try to get some sleep. Other times, his aim is impeccable and his knee jabs your suddenly full bladder, sending you on a mad dash to the bathroom. But what if each kick was your baby’s way of creating a map of his or her tiny body?

What’s the Point of All that Kicking?

A study was recently conducted at UCL Neuroscience, Physiology & Pharmacology and the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Obstetric Wing at UCLH. Researchers studied 19 babies only two days postpartum who were between 31 and 42 corrected gestational age. Corrected gestational age is the term that describes the age of a baby born prematurely had he or she still been in the womb. The babies’ brainwaves were continuously monitored with an EEG during sleep. Each baby was sleeping nested in a cot that closely resembled the security of the womb.

During REM sleep, observers discovered that babies move their limbs while fast brainwaves simultaneously fire in the corresponding hemisphere of their brain. Brainwaves in the left hemisphere process touch for the right side of the body. So, this research indicates that as babies kick or move one side of their body, the part of the brain that processes sensory input is growing. During the third trimester, each movement helps the baby develop an understanding of how to use his or her body. Because these fast brainwaves disappeared by the time the baby was two weeks old, physicians understand that premature babies need uninterrupted sleep cycles in order to complete this stage of development.

How Do I Know if it’s a Kick?

Women are able to feel their baby’s first kicks between 14 and 26 weeks. If you’re 15 weeks and haven’t felt any flutters yet, don’t worry! The average woman first feels movement between 18 and 22 weeks. However, if you have an anterior placenta, it may be longer before you feel your baby wiggling inside of you. An anterior placenta means your placenta is in front of your uterus and it acts as a pillow that stifles your ability to feel your baby’s movement. At first, kicks will feel like small flutters or gas bubbles. Sometimes you might feel a twitch or nudge. It may be difficult to detect at first, especially if this is your first pregnancy. But once you recognize those tiny movements, you’ll begin to notice them more often. Then, as your baby grows and runs out of room to move around, you’ll be able to tell whether her foot, hand or elbow is the culprit behind the jab.

How Do I Count Kicks?

Beginning at week 28, you might want to start “counting kicks.” This is a simple way to monitor your baby’s activity and make sure he is progressing properly. You should discuss this with your TWC doctor to make sure you understand what you are look for and when to call your doctor. Basically, you will set aside time twice a day to count kicks-once in the morning and once in the evening. The goal is to experience 10 movements-kicks, flutters, or rolls-in one hour. If you feel 10 kicks in less than one hour, you can stop counting. If you do not feel 10 movements at the end of the hour, grab a snack or juice, lie down, and begin counting again. You should call your doctor if it takes nearly two hours before you feel 10 movements. This does not always indicate a problem, but there may be something your OB wants to monitor, especially if movement decreases in your final weeks of pregnancy. If you have questions about counting kicks or your baby’s movement during pregnancy, contact us The Woman’s Clinic today.

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