What Does It Feel Like When Your Baby Moves?

Written by: L. Elizabeth Forry



Time to read 8 min

Few things during pregnancy are more exciting than feeling your baby move for the first time. Most mothers can tell you precisely what they were doing or where they were when they felt those first tiny flutters and kicks.

However, if this is your first pregnancy, you are likely to wonder when these movements should begin and how they feel. It’s entirely possible that you won’t even recognize them as movements the first few times.

To help you understand fetal movements, what they feel like, and when they occur, we’ve broken down your baby’s movements into weeks through the second and third trimester.

Hopefully this will help you discover all the ins and outs of kick counts, jabs, and what to expect concerning your baby’s activity levels.

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When Does the Baby Start Moving?

Believe it or not, your baby has actually been moving around in the womb since about week seven or eight. However, they are so small that those movements won’t register as anything you can feel.

As your baby continues to grow and stretch out, you will begin to feel some initial flutters.

While each baby’s development will vary slightly, in most cases, you will feel your baby move between weeks 16-25, and most women will feel movement around weeks 18-22.

These first movements are referred to as quickening. First-time moms are less likely to feel fetal kicks early, whereas those experiencing their second or third pregnancy may feel movements as early as 13-weeks.

The baby’s position may also affect when you feel the first movements. For example, if your little one is front-facing, it may take longer to feel those fist twitches. Likewise, if you have an anterior placenta, the placenta will muffle early movements, and you may not feel any kicks until 28-weeks.

While an anterior placenta may make it more difficult to feel your baby move and make it more challenging for your health care provider to find the heartbeat during ultrasounds or perform certain prenatal tests, it is not considered a dangerous or high-risk condition.

Your doctor or ultrasound technician will locate the placement of your placenta around weeks 18-20 as part of your routine prenatal care. 

During your second trimester, you will have an anatomy scan. Your doctor will assess the placement of the placenta and check on fetal development and growth to ensure your baby’s development is progressing typically.

This appointment is also when most parents find out if they are having a boy or a girl! If you do not wish to find out your baby’s gender, simply advise the technician at the start of the appointment.

What Does It Feel Like When the Baby Moves?

Understanding the how and why of your baby’s movement is essential, but it does little to help if you don’t know how these early movements feel!

Most pregnant women say that their baby’s early movements feel like flutters or little butterflies floating around.

Other women describe it like popcorn popping and mistake these movements for gas.

Some women will be able to feel movement right at the end of their first trimester, around weeks 12-13, but in most cases, the earliest felt movements will occur around weeks 16-18 and increase in duration and intensity as you approach your due date.

To help you sort out the different types of movements and when to expect them, below is an outline of the types of movements moms-to-be are likely to feel, broken down by weeks.

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16 to 19 weeks

To feel these early movements, you will need to pay close attention. They often feel like faint, fluttery movements in the womb. If this is your first baby, you may not feel or notice these movements or you might mistake them for gas.

Also, even if you feel movement this early, your partner or other family and friends won’t be able to feel them quite yet.

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20 to 23 weeks

At 20-weeks, your baby is about the size of a banana, and most women can feel their baby as it begins to move and kick.

These movements will feel more like jabs and kicks and will increase in frequency. It’s possible that at this point, your partner will be able to feel the baby move too.

24 to 28 weeks

By 24 weeks of pregnancy, most women have felt their baby move for the first time. If you have an anterior placenta, you may not have felt any kicks or jabs yet, but don’t be too concerned. If your doctor assured you of your baby’s fetal health at your 20-week scan, you should begin to feel kicks any week now.

If, however, you do not have an anterior placenta and have not felt the baby move, you should give your doctor a call.

The amniotic sac begins filling up with more liquid at this point in your pregnancy, allowing your baby to move more freely. It may start to feel like you have a future gymnast inside as they flip and turn and perform all kinds of acrobatics!

At this point, you should be able to feel your baby’s movements with your partner, grandparents, and anyone else you’d like to join in the fun!

29 to 31 weeks

Your baby’s movements will slightly reduce at this stage, and they may start to settle into a predictable schedule or a time of day when they like to move the most. However, you will also notice that movements, when they do occur, are sharper and stronger in intensity.

32 to 35 weeks

Your little guy or gal is beginning to run out of room to perform their acrobatics, so with less room, you will notice that movements will be slower but last longer in duration. Many women enjoy this stage of their pregnancy because they can spend time sitting with their babies and feel them move and stretch.

36 to 40 weeks

During your final four weeks, your baby will begin readying themselves for birth. At this point, most babies will flip to the head-down position and stay there.

However, they will still stretch and kick their arms and legs. With their new placement, you may begin feeling kicks in different spots than before. You may even notice that some of their kicking is slightly painful.

How Often Should the Baby Kick?

Each baby will develop its own pattern of kicking and moving as your pregnancy progresses, so there is no standard set amount of kicking that you should expect to experience.

What is essential, especially as you enter the third trimester, is getting to know your baby’s patterns and tendencies so you can tell when something is off and should be addressed with your gynecologist or obstetrician.

Many babies tend to move in the evening or nighttime hours when mom is relaxing. Babies in the womb have no concept of night or day, and are often lulled to sleep during the day through mom’s frequent movements. When you finally have a chance to rest and put up your feet, your little one tends to wake up and move.

If you’re looking for the perfect place to put your feet up and rest so you can tune into your baby’s movements, consider a Nurture& Glider or Glider Plus. Not only are Nurture& Gliders a soft and comfortable place to sit, but they make a beautiful addition to any nursery and cozy spot for breastfeeding or feeding once your baby is here.

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Babies in the womb are also more prone to movement after mom has had a snack. So if you’re feeling those hunger pangs and dig into some ice cream, expect your little one to start moving about. This is because your baby will get a boost in blood sugar and a little burst of energy.

Many sonogram technicians recommend that mom drink some orange juice or an energy bar about 30-60 minutes before the 20-week scan to keep the baby awake and moving around.

Some babies also develop hiccups in the womb, which can feel like flutters or a rhythmic tick. There’s no telling how long your baby’s hiccups can last, and it could be anywhere from a few minutes to an hour.

But don’t worry, baby hiccups are a normal pregnancy symptom for some, but it is also just as normal not to experience them. Of course, you should give your doctor a call any time you are concerned about you or your baby’s well-being.

Should I Monitor the Baby’s Movements?

It is important to be aware of your baby’s typical activity level and movements, so you can contact your healthcare provider if you notice any changes or lack of movement.

Also, remember that not all babies move or develop precisely the same way, so if this is your second or third pregnancy, this baby may have a different activity level than their sibling.

A standard piece of medical advice is to perform kick counts. To perform kick counts, choose two or three times during the day your baby is active, usually one in the morning and one in the evening, and count how many times they move in an hour-long period.

If you do not notice any movement during a period when your baby is typically active, eat a small sugary snack and wait 10-15 minutes. You should be able to count ten movements in the span of an hour.

You should call your provider if you notice your baby is moving significantly less than before, you haven’t felt them move by 24 weeks gestation, or you don’t notice your baby move within two hours.

It is also possible that as you inch closer to your due date, your baby’s movements will change. Some baby’s become less active while others stay the course as little movers and shakers.

The weeks leading up to your baby’s arrival are full of new experiences and miraculous changes to both your body and your baby’s body. Take time to slow down when possible and enjoy the little flutters and kicks as one of the first ways to connect with your baby.

Each pregnancy is different and unique, so don’t worry if you haven’t felt your little one move yet.

But, as your baby grows, make it a priority to rest and begin performing kick counts as you enter your third trimester as a barometer for your baby’s activity. And any time you have questions, use this guide to help you navigate the wonderful world of baby kicks and movements!

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L. Elizabeth Forry

Medically reviewed: Gabriela Alvarado

Medical surgeon with certifications from Imperial College London and Johns Hopkins University. Committed to medical excellence, she has conducted several academic research projects that have contributed to the advancement of the field.

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