The first flutters of pregnancy are as close to magic as we get on this earth, as far as I can reckon. OK, other than the smell of the crown of fuzz on a newborn's head. Also, wine is magical. However, the movements of our babies as they grow inside of us is something that we also monitor, unlike how many times we inhale that new baby smell. Should we start monitoring immediately after we begin to feel them, or later? When should you start doing kick counts to survey the health of your child?
There is some debate as to the necessity of assessing your baby by doing strict kick counts, according to an article in the Journal of Family Practice. There are two schools of thought on this. The first is that you should set a time every day and count to 10 movements, noting how long it takes to get there. The other school of thought is that you should identify your baby's pattern of movement and activity, remembering when they're most active, and then taking note of any aberrance in that pattern. Generally, you begin counting kicks at about 28 weeks or your third trimester or a few weeks earlier, between weeks 24 and 26, if you're experiencing a high-risk pregnancy.
The thought is that by taking this daily assessment of your child's movements, you're taking an active role in assessing your baby's health and growth in a tangible way that you can use in discourse with your OB-GYN or midwife. There are a myriad of tracking devices and apps available for Android or iPhone, and they assist in streamlining what can be a stressful process for some mothers. There's no watching the clock or biting your nails waiting — just open the app and hit the creepy little baby foot symbol when you feel Junior move.
When I was pregnant with my first, my doctor didn't have me start doing kick counts until one day when I noticed my son had stopped moving in-utero. I called her in a panic. She was calm and gentle as she told me to go for a walk and have a bit of juice to see if I could jumpstart the indolent little dude into some baby aerobics. It wasn't more than 10 minutes after I chugged some orange juice that he let his opinion of that particular beverage be known — with enthusiasm.
I spoke with midwife Chana Meir to inquire as to when you should start counting kicks and she tells Romper that it's pretty standard to start just before you reach your third trimester. "At that point, the movements are usually pretty hard to miss, unless you have a great deal of amniotic fluid or some other anatomical reason for missing the movement." In my case, by 28 weeks, I was a breath away from Ellen Ripley in Alien the way my babies tucked and rolled beneath my skin.
Meir notes that it's easy to get stressed out about counting the kicks, but that's why you should do it the same time every day, when you know your baby is up and active — if your provider guides you to do kick counts. "I prefer for the mothers to do kick counts occasionally, but to focus on the regularity of movement of their babies. They'll normally have a few active periods during the day, and several quiet periods. Take note of these, and a few times per week, really count the kicks and feel how baby moves inside your body."
This is a really special time in your life, and it's easy to let it get away from you in all the preparation and worry. I eventually found that these periods of monitoring my baby allowed me to stop and reflect on what a miracle it all was. Hopefully, you'll feel the same.
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