Fetal movement counts

There is a simple way to check your baby's health at home or anywhere, called a fetal movement count. Every baby has normal sleep and awake times, so your baby will have periods of both quiet and active time. A movement may be a kick, stretch, turn or flip.

Your baby won't slow down and become less active before birth. The movements may change - as your baby grows, there is less room to maneuver - but the frequency of movement should not decrease.

By keeping track of your baby's movements for each day during the third trimester, you will get to know your baby's activity pattern. This can help alert you if your baby is not feeling well.

  • A total of 10 or more distinct movements in 2 hours suggests that your baby is doing well.
  • If your baby is moving less than usual, this may be a sign that he or she is under some stress or that a problem may be developing.
  • If you are worried and do not have at least five movements in 1 hours, call your health care provider.

Your baby might be quite active while you are at work, but that may not be a very relaxing, easy place for you to count movements. Try resting in bed at home and counting kicks and movements there.

When to count

Once a day, during the third trimester of your pregnancy, record your baby's activity. Choose the time of day your baby is the most active, and begin timing fetal movements at about the same time every day.

If you smoke and have not been able to quit during your pregnancy, try not to smoke for at least 1 hour before you start counting. (Your baby gets less oxygen and food because nicotine from cigarettes tightens up your blood vessels.)

How to count

  • Choose a quiet place where you can focus on your baby's movements without being distracted.
  • Lie down on your side or sit in a comfortable chair.
  • When you count the 10th movement, write down the time and stop counting. Figure out how long it took to record the 10 movements. (Often, the 10 movements occur in fewer than 30 minutes.)

When to call your health care provider

Call your health care provider if:

  • you notice a significant change in your baby's activity (such as fewer than half the number of movements you normally feel)
  • your baby has not moved 10 times in 2 hours
  • your have questions or concerns.

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Gestational Diabetes: When You Have Diabetes During Pregnancy, third edition, ISBN 1-931876-21-6
Reviewed By: Reviewed by Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts
First Published: 11/27/2006
Last Reviewed: 01/20/2014