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Fetal Kick Counts. Why Are They Important?

Feeling your baby moving around inside your womb is gratifying for a variety of reasons. For high-risk pregnancies, this feeling can be a major relief. Should you be counting fetal kicks? Learn more about this important prenatal monitoring strategy.

Fetal Movement Counting Basics

Why count your fetus’ kicks? Though kick counting, also known as fetal movement counting, has a long history and is commonly recommended in the third trimester, especially for high-risk pregnancies.

Feeling your baby moving around inside your womb is gratifying for a variety of reasons.
  • However, it’s exact purpose isn’t always clear. Doctors at the UC San Diego Health system acknowledge that, while the formal jury is out on what fetal movement counting can do, they’ve found correlative evidence to suggest that the practice can help reduce stillbirths. Other health professionals may feel that movement counting provides a general view of how the fetus is behaving as it gets closer and closer to delivery.
  • Fetal movements should remain somewhat consistent throughout pregnancy.
    • There does tend to be less movement in the womb during the day, with most unborn babies getting their wiggles out in the evening.
    • This is especially true during the third trimester. Kick counting is a method for counting how many times the fetus moves during a set time frame.
  • Usually, the counts are performed at roughly the same time every day to provide a controlled set of circumstances for monitoring. If you’re going about your normal routine and counting at the same time, a sudden lack or dramatic reduction in movement could be cause for concern. Essentially, this kind of self-monitoring is a way for expectant mothers to keep an eye on their unborn child without the need for invasive or expensive equipment.

How Fetal Counts Work

Unfortunately, there’s a persistent myth stating that fetuses should start moving less during the third trimester. This isn’t true.

  • You may feel your baby moving around less randomly, but there should be daily movement.
  • That’s why monitoring should take place around the same time every day—choose a time when your kid generally seems to move around a lot in your womb.
  • Set a period of time, maybe five minutes or so, to count actions. This includes kicks, shifts and other definitive movements you can really feel.
  • A sudden lack of movement after days of active counts during the same time period could point to potential complications or a fetus under some sort of stress.
pregnant woman and doctor talking about why fetal kick counts are important
You may feel your baby moving around less randomly, but there should be daily movement

A big word of caution about this, though: taking on kick counting on your own without any supervision can do you more harm than good as far as stress and anxiety are concerned. If your doctor or midwife hasn’t mentioned kick counting to you, ask if you should start doing it. Whether the answer is yes or no, find out why.

Gather as much information as you can about the state of your pregnancy, and don’t let a calm fetus freak you out if every other sign points to a healthy delivery. Some kids just don’t move around a whole lot before they’re born. On the flip side, if you notice a sudden and dramatic decline in fetal movement even without being told to count kicks, you can and should bring this up with your healthcare team. At the very least, you could get some valuable reassurance.

If you’re taking the time to count kicks every night, why not multitask and shop for a postpartum corset or girdle? Use our sizing tool to find the best fit so you can stay comfy and supported after delivery.

You Might Also Like: What to Pack In Your Hospital Bag.

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