Counting Kicks: Why & How to Track Fetal Movement
Studying your baby's activity pattern during pregnancy can potentially save their life.
Every pregnant mother waits to feel their baby’s kicks – it is a wonderfully reassuring feeling that your baby is safe and sound. Most new mothers will feel their baby move between 18 and 25 weeks, while women who have previously gone through pregnancy can sense the flutters as early as 14 weeks as they already know how it feels. As precious as these kicks are and although you just want to cherish or live in these moments, you should also be tracking your baby’s movements to understand their activity pattern. A fetal kick chart is one way you can do this.
Why is fetal behaviour important?
Many of us know this: an active baby in the belly is a healthy baby. This is the very reason why understanding their behaviour or activity pattern can help you flag any possible signs of distress.
Tracking their movements is especially important within the third trimester when your baby’s kicks should be regular and strong. Any unusual pattern changes in movement could potentially be an indicator that your pregnancy may be at risk of complications. This fact is supported by various studies, including one conducted by BMA Pregnancy and Childbirth which revealed that changes in activity are also linked the risk of stillbirth – a heartbreaking tragedy we mummies pray never to face.
With this, you have probably heard about kick counting and with good reason. Kick counting remains as one of the best ways to track your baby’s activity pattern as you will know what is “normal” activity for him or her, as well as when and how active your little one can be – it is good to practice counting your kicks daily, especially in your 28th week of pregnancy when your baby’s kicks are more prominent. In doing so, you are able swiftly act on contacting your doctor when you sense any signs of any abnormal activity patterns.
What counts as a ‘kick’?
Besides actual baby kicks, their twists, turns, swishes, rolls and jabs also count as one movement. However, baby hiccups do not count as a kick – these often feel repetitive or as a rhythmic twitching or a pulsating motion.
But, if you are unsure if your baby has hiccups or is kicking, one method to differentiate this is by moving around. Sometimes, if you reposition yourself, your baby may move as he or she is feeling a little uncomfortable. You can also eat something to stimulate their senses. If the twitching or repetitive feeling continues to linger after this or when you are still, it could just be a case of the hiccups.
Tracking your kicks using a fetal kick chart or other method: Count to 10
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (ACOG) recommends that mothers should be charting how long it take to feel 10 movements within two hours at least once a day. However, you should not count one session for more than two hours – this way you will be able to properly identify their activity pattern and take notice when there is a sudden change in movement during these active periods.
There are many mediums you can use to track your kicks. Some mummies prefer using a printable chart, jotting it down in a notebook or with a digital kick counter (such theAsianparent kick counter on our app). When counting kicks, there are three main and very crucial things to note down during your sessions – the date, times and of course, the amount of kicks.
If you are keen on recording your kicks manually, here is an example of an easy fetal kick chart format we made that you can follow:
Recording these movements under each of these columns is crucial as this allows you to observe your baby’s activity pattern to identify how long it normally takes your baby to move or finish 10 movements.
Kick counting tips to keep in mind
There are certain positions and tips you can follow that allow you to feel your baby’s movements better when counting their kicks. Here are some of our top tips:
- Always set aside a time: Choose a time when your baby is most active to feel their kicks. It is important to set aside this time alone for you to sit or lie down – this will let you feel their movements and count each kick.
- Get comfortable with the right position: Mums know that placing your hands on the abdomen area helps you feel the kicks. But, it is also equally important to be comfortable as you do this so you can fully concentrate on counting his or her movements. Many pregnant women prefer to lie on their left side as a comfortable position to count their baby’s movement – lying down as such also allows better circulation that allows your baby to be much more active. Likewise, you can also count your kicks while sitting down.
- Contacting your doctor: If your baby has less than 10 kicks in two hours, don’t panic! Wait for a few hours and start counting your kicks again – if there continues to be less than 10 kicks, it is advisable to contact your doctor immediately. However, if there is a change in their activity pattern that prolongs between three and four days, you should also consult your doctor. Your doctor may conduct a Non-stress Test (NST) in both of these scenarios to check your baby’s heart rate and movements using a fetal monitor.
Remember, stay positive always
We cannot deny that kick counting can lead to anxious mummies, where some avoid counting kicks all at once because of this – we all want the best for our babies and any unusual activity can trigger maternal anxiety. Nevertheless, as we mentioned, counting your kicks and tracking your baby allows you to pick up their behavioural patterns. Yes, we have maternal instinct but tracking your kicks can help your doctor understand your baby’s health, especially in threatening situations.
Scientific studies have also brought to the light the benefits of kick counting with expectant mums, especially during their third trimester – it was said that mums are the best evaluator of their baby’s status and education on kick counting could be one of the main pillars in stillbirth prevention. But, avoid panicking if there is a change and instead, stay calm while contacting your doctor for advise.