When you first feel your tiny human wiggling around in your belly, it’s exhilarating. Friends and family members come running at your signal that the baby is moving, and by the third trimester, the living quarters grow tight enough that every roll or flip is met with a “Whoa” as your stomach morphs into an alien-like shape. But what about when your baby nods off and isn’t doing somersaults? What advice can keep you from wondering, “Should I go to the hospital if my baby hasn’t moved?”
“Fetal movement tends to slow down in the third trimester because the baby tends to run out of room,” Dr. Lakeisha Richardson, a Mississippi-based board-certified OB-GYN, tells Romper in an email interview. “However, even with decreased movement, babies should move at least 10 times in a two-hour time period.”
Richardson recommends that before calling your healthcare provider or going to the hospital for decreased fetal movement, you should first go to a quiet location and lie on your left side. She then says you should proceed with the count-to-10 method to monitor fetal kick counts. Place your hand on your abdomen and focus on feeling the baby move. "If you have 10 kicks in less than two hours, you can resume previous activities."
Of course, Richardson says, if decreased fetal movement is accompanied by other symptoms, such as bleeding, rupture of membranes, pain, headaches, or blurry vision, then you should go to the hospital immediately.
Dr. Yvonne Bohn, an OB-GYN at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California explains that, while a lack of movement is typically the result of a resting baby, a decrease in fetal movement can be related to lower delivery of oxygen from the placenta or lower amniotic fluid. "As a woman approaches her due date or passes the due date, the function of the placenta may start to decline which will cause decrease in production of amniotic fluid or less efficient transfer of oxygen to the baby," she says. Again, try the kick count and, if you are not tracking at least 10 kicks in less than two hours, then it's time to reach out to your healthcare provider.
"Many mothers have a concern about the frequency of fetal movements at least once during pregnancy," Dr. Allison Hill, a board-certified OB-GYN and author of Your Pregnancy, Your Way, tells Romper. "During the last half of pregnancy, a healthy fetus is active 30 percent of the time and spends 70 percent of its time asleep."
Hill says formal kick counting administered by a healthcare provider only needs to be done in high-risk pregnancies, but it is important for all mothers to be aware of fetal movements and to notice any significant changes in the patterns. She says it's also important to keep in mind that "babies actually move much more often than a mother will feel."
"A movement seen on an ultrasound is perceived by the mother only half of the time," Hill says. "Fetal movement increases throughout the day, peaks late in the evening between 9 p.m. and 1 a.m., and decreases in the middle of the night as maternal blood sugar levels fall. If a baby isn’t moving, it could be due to inadequate oxygen, but, more likely, it is related to the mother’s perception of movement."
As always, any notable change should be discussed with your doctor, but Hill assures moms that less movement typically occurs when you are sitting or standing, when you are distracted, and if the fetus is positioned with its arms and legs toward the mother’s back.
And the most movement? Right when you are settling into bed each night. Every. Time.
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