Why it’s important to check your baby’s movements during pregnancy

10 November 2017

In pregnancy, babies' movements are an important sign of their health. If your baby's pattern of kicks and movements changes, you should contact your midwife or nearest maternity unit for immediate advice.

During pregnancy, a baby’s first movements happen any time between 16 and 24 weeks and gradually start to develop a pattern. They increase up to around 32 weeks and then stay roughly the same. It is recommended to get to know your baby’s normal pattern of movements. Babies are just as active at the end of the pregnancy - the movements will probably feel different because the baby has less room to move around, but they should be as strong and frequent as they were before.

Although your midwife will ask about your baby’s movements at every appointment from 25–26 weeks onwards, if you think your baby’s movements have changed, don’t wait until your next appointment to mention it.

What should you do if you think there's a change?

  • If you think your baby’s movements have changed, slowed down or stopped, phone your maternity unit (Labour ward for Royal Free and Northwick Park Hospitals, Triage for St. Mary’s Hospital and Queen Charlotte’s and Chelsea Hospital). Don’t put off calling till the next day to see what happens
  • The midwife at the unit will advise you what to do – she may ask you to come to the unit to be checked. Don’t worry about phoning. Midwives would much rather you called than were worried
  • If you’re unsure whether your baby has moved because you’re having a busy day, find time to lie down on your left side and focus on your baby’s movements for up to 1 hour. If you’re still worried, call your midwife for advice.
  • Don’t rely on devices at home such as hand-held monitors, Doppler’s or phone apps to check your baby’s heartbeat. Even if you detect a heartbeat this doesn’t mean your baby is well and you may be falsely reassured.

Daniel O’Leary, Divisional Lead for Women’s Services, Northwick Park Hospital states “It is very important if you feel that your babies movements have reduced or stopped that you contact your local maternity unit for advice and support immediately. Staff are on hand to offer advice and if need be ask you to attend so that we can check on baby.”  

Early in your pregnancy, you may just feel a few flutters every now and then. But as your baby grows, usually by the end of the second trimester, the kicks should grow stronger and more frequent. Studies show that by the third trimester, the baby moves about 30 times each hour.

When a baby stops moving this could be an indication the baby is becoming distress and could lead to a still birth. A stillborn baby is a baby born after the 24th week of pregnancy who does not show any signs of life.

We don't know the reasons for many stillbirths. But if you are expecting a baby, it is a good idea to follow the advice from your midwife or GP, which will help to reduce the risk and keep your baby healthy. Actions include:

  • Stopping smoking.
  • Telling your midwife about any abdominal pain or vaginal bleeding.
  • Protecting yourself against infection.
  • Asking your midwife for information about avoiding certain foods.
  • Attending all your antenatal appointments. 
  • Being aware of your baby's movements towards the end of pregnancy

For further advice during pregnancy, visit the NHS Choices website here.