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Feeling your baby kick-a fetal movement guide

This guide about fetal movement has been put together to reassure you of the various ways and times this experience may happen. It also includes guidelines about how to monitor your baby’s movement once it has become a pretty constant factor.. 


One of the most thrilling moments of your pregnancy is when you feel your baby move for the first time. But when we are waiting for that moment to come, it can also be nerve-wracking, as we want to experience it so much. Quickening, as it is known as, can happen at different times for different women.

During pregnancy one of the most exciting moments is when you feel your baby kicking for the first time. These little first flutters can be reassuring, while also helping you to feel even closer to your baby, as he/she grows inside.


Butterflies or Twitches? 

These movements can be quite subtle early on, feeling like butterflies, tumbling motions or even nervous twitches. Especially if it is your first pregnancy, it can be challenging to distinguish your baby’s kicks from other internal motions, including hunger pangs and wind.



These first moves of your baby are known as quickening. There is quite a wide timescale as to when you can expect to feel quickening, and it can happen anywhere from between 14 to 26 weeks, although the average can be from week 18 to 24.

If it’s your first pregnancy, it isn’t uncommon to have to wait longer and it may even be around week 25 when you feel those first movements.

Also, the position of your placenta can play an important role in the timing of this, and for example, if it is an anterior placenta, movement may be muffled, making you wait longer.

On a second pregnancy, there are some women who can feel quickening as early on as 13 weeks. However, the most common time to feel quickening is during month five. First-time mothers often wait until week 24-25 to recognise quickening.


1. Most likely times to feel fetal movement

Quiet Times

You are more likely to feel fetal movement at quieter times, such as when you are sitting or lying down. Quieter times, like settling down for the night, normally mean that you are going to be more in tune with your body and therefore naturally more aware of baby’s movements.

Alternating & Blood Sugar

Movements occur at certain times because the baby is alternating between sleep and alertness. Often babies can be at their most active between 9 pm at night and 1 o’clock in the morning. The reason for this is because of the changes that are happening in your blood sugar levels.


Baby can also respond to your blood sugar after you’ve had a snack or meal. Also if you feel nervous for some reason, the adrenaline that your body produces can have a similar effect, giving a boost of energy to your baby.

Touch & Sound

Baby can respond to touch and sounds, so that if you snuggle up to your partner, baby may even kick him in the back.
What should it feel like?

All Babies Are Individuals

Each baby is an individual, so try not to stress too much about comparing your baby’s movements with those of any pregnant friends. Sometimes quickening is as difficult to describe as it is to recognise, but once you are sure of what it is, it’s one of the most
thrilling parts of pregnancy.

Getting to know your baby’s own pattern of movement is most important. If there is any deviation in your baby’s routine, it is important to have this reviewed immediately.

Many Different Feelings

It may feel like a nudge, a little flutter, a growing hunger pang, a twitch, muscle spasm, the feeling of butterflies like when you feel nervous, a tumbling motion, or even like a bubble bursting.


 baby kicking

2. How often should I feel movement?

Once In A While

Earlier in pregnancy, it’s most likely that you will only feel your baby’s movement as a few flutters every once in a while. Kicks should be more frequent and stronger by the end of your second trimester.

You Know Your Baby Best

We have moved away from counting babies’ movements. Your baby is an individual and you know your baby best.

Trust your instincts. If the movements change (either more or less) concentrate on your baby taking some quiet Me and Baby time.

It is important not to be distracted by the TV or a book. If you are not reassured it is important to be reviewed.

One medical study on the subject of fetal movement that you may find helpful can be read here.


3. Why babies kick

Response To Environment

Babies move and kick often in response to something happening in their environment. Your baby may be responding to too much light, noise and in some instances, strong foods.

Stretching & Relaxation

Just like us, babies need to move and stretch for relaxation. This means that if you are moving, this can be relaxing for baby.

4. Quieter babies

This study showed that woman who participate in relaxing exercises, such as Qi Gong, yoga and meditation, may find that their babies are quieter. This makes sense in terms of Mum’s relaxing movement doing some of the work for baby, in a way.

Guided Imagery Exercises

Also women who took part in that same study, experienced reduced fetal movements when they undertook guided imagery relaxation exercises. The exercises lowered their respiration rates, heart rates and skin conductance, which in turn lowered their babies’ heart rates. This led to decreased fetal movements. 


5. An average baby movement timeline*

Week 12

Movement should have started, but it is very unusual to feel anything as baby is too small.

Week 16

A small amount of women may feel butterfly type flutters, which could be either gas or baby movements.

Week 20

Baby may be developed enough for some women to be confident that it is quickening that they are feeling (but not all women, and especially those on a first pregnancy). However an anterior placenta can delay the feeling of movement even if this isn’t your first baby.

Week 24

Baby’s movements are more established. Some women may feel little twitches that could be baby hiccups.

Week 28

Baby is on the move a good bit now, to the extent that some of the jabs and kicks could be making a bit of an impact on you.

Week 36

You should be aware of your baby’s pattern of movement. If there are any deviations in the routine pattern please seek medical advice from your Midwife or Obstetrician.

*Please take into account that both you and your baby are individuals

6. Should I monitor my baby’s movements?

Around Week 28

When your baby’s movements seem to be well established, which often happens around week 28, some doctors recommend keeping a diary of these jabs, punches and kicks. Currently, there isn’t actual scientific evidence to show whether keeping track of the movements is a proper indicator of how the baby is doing.


However many women like to do it, as it comes naturally to them to be in tune with baby, and many healthcare providers recommend it also.

How to monitor your baby’s movements

How Is Your Routine?

Depending on how your schedule is, you can spend some time monitoring your baby’s movements either once or twice a day. If you can manage to fit two times into your schedule, then use both of these suggestions below. If not just go for the second option, when movement should be busier.


If you are able to set aside some time in the morning, even though movements tend to be less during this time of the day, then you can evaluate the average number of movements within an hour. If you stick to the same hour each morning, then you know what average amount of movements approximately to expect.

After Meal Times

A convenient and logical method is to choose a time when your baby is normally more active, which could be just after you’ve had lunch or dinner. So after your meal put yourself in a comfortable position, either lying on your side or relaxing on a comfortable chair and check if the fetal movements are as normal.

Normal Movements

It is no longer recommended to count your baby’s movements exactly. Instead, you can observe if the movements are regular and in tune with your baby’s recent patterns of movement. If the pattern has reduced or you are not feeling any movement, please follow these guidelines.


feeling baby kicking

7. What should I do if baby’s movements are notably less or more?


Sit or lie still for a period of time, drink a glass of cold water and have something to eat, which theoretically may stimulate the baby to move. You can also rub your tummy and talk to your baby.

After drinking water and having something to eat, if you are not reassured please seek medical advice from your Midwife or Obstetrician. They will advise you and organise assessment as required. You know your baby best and should trust your instincts.

Evaluation Is Important

Absence of activity doesn’t immediately mean that there is something wrong, however, it is something that needs to be evaluated quickly.

Please be sure to contact your healthcare provider if you feel concerned at all. Don’t be worried about wasting their time, as women sometimes we think like this. Contact your healthcare provider to get checked. This article is not intended to be medical advice or a substitute for face to face medical advice.

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Gráinne Macken

This is my second visit to Merrion Fetal, I was very pleased on both occasions. Lovely quiet waiting room, appointment was on time. The 20-week scan is very detailed we enjoyed watching our baby on the large TV screen. We got some beautiful photos. The nurse was very pleasant and talked us through all the measurements and anatomy. I would highly recommend this scanning clinic.”

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I had the best experience at the Merrion Fetal Health clinic for my 20-week big scan. The staff were so friendly and so nice and the lovely lady who did my ultrasound scan was amazing. She was so thoroughgoing to absolutely everything and gave me such reassurance on how my baby was growing and developing. I would recommend any Mother to be to attend here if you are looking for a comfortable, reassuring and super pleasant experience.”

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Highly recommend! We had an early scan due to a little scare at the start of pregnancy and then another at 12 weeks to make sure all was good again. Helen who was scanning on both days was fantastic. We felt totally relaxed and un-rushed while she took her time finding the best angle of baby to get us the clearest pictures as keepsakes all while making sure everything was perfect with baby. She reassured us throughout and I can honestly say it was the best money we ever spent getting both scans done.

Please let Helen know we are 18 weeks now and flying along Highly recommend!



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All articles on the blog and website are intended as information only. Please do not consider any of the information provided here as a substitute for medical advice. At all times seek medical advice directly with your own doctor and medical team.


This website was formerly Merrion Fetal Health. The clinic has undergone a rebrand and is now known as Merrion Ultrasound.