Children's Health and Wellness

Fetal Movement Counting

What is fetal movement counting?

Fetal movement counting is a way to check the health of a woman’s unborn baby (fetus). It’s often called kick counting. It’s done by counting the number of kicks you feel from your baby in the womb in a certain time period.

By 20 weeks gestation, most women are able to feel their baby's movements. Movements vary in strength and how often they occur. There are different patterns of movement. They depend on the age of the baby. Most babies tend to be more active in the evening hours. This can start as early as the second trimester. A baby may be more active about an hour after the mother eats. This is because of the increase in sugar (glucose) in the mother's blood. Fetal movement normally increases during the day with peak activity late at night.

Why might I need to do fetal movement counting?

Fetal movement is one show of a baby’s health in the womb. Each woman should learn the normal pattern and number of movements for her own baby. A change in the normal pattern or number of fetal movements may mean the baby is under stress. And keep in mind that it’s not normal for a baby to stop moving with the onset of labor.

What are the risks of fetal movement counting?

There are no risks to the mother or unborn baby during fetal movement counting. It can instead help to pick up on decreased fetal movement and help prevent problems for the baby.

How do I get ready for fetal movement counting?

Talk with your healthcare provider about when to do the counting. Set aside the same time each day to count movements. Babies have sleep cycles, so fetal kick counts may be done at any time of day. After a meal is often a good time.

What happens during fetal movement counting?

There are several ways to do kick counts. And there are several guidelines for how many kicks are normal in a certain time. For example, write down the number of times you feel the baby kick or move in one hour. After several days, you may find the baby usually moves about the same number of times per hour. This becomes your baseline number.

Do the counting as often as your healthcare provider advises.

What happens after fetal movement counting?

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of the below occurs:

  • Your baby is not moving as much as usual.
  • It takes longer for your baby to move in the usual length of time.
  • Your baby has stopped moving.

Other testing can be done to check the health of your baby. Your healthcare provider will tell you more.

Next steps

Before you agree to the test or the procedure make sure you know:

  • The name of the test or procedure
  • The reason you are having the test or procedure
  • What results to expect and what they mean
  • The risks and benefits of the test or procedure
  • What the possible side effects or complications are
  • When and where you are to have the test or procedure
  • Who will do the test or procedure and what that person’s qualifications are
  • What would happen if you did not have the test or procedure
  • Any alternative tests or procedures to think about
  • When and how will you get the results
  • Who to call after the test or procedure if you have questions or problems
  • How much will you have to pay for the test or procedure
Print Source: Up To Date. Evaluation of decreased fetal movements
Online Source: The American college of Obstetrics and Gynecologists. Special Tests for Monitoring Fetal Healthhttp://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq098.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20130520T1448548052
Online Editor: Green, Chelsea
Online Editor: Wheeler, Brooke
Online Medical Reviewer: Berry, Judith, PhD, APRN
Online Medical Reviewer: Goode, Paula, RN, BSN, MSN
Date Last Reviewed: 6/15/2015
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