Bubbles or butterflies?
Bubbles, butterflies, flutters and gas. These are all words used to describe what a baby's first movements feel like to a mother. This is a long anticipated event in every pregnancy. 

Those first movements – known as “quickening”, is defined as the first time you feel your baby move.

If you are expecting your first baby you can expect to feel your baby move for the first time between 18 and 24 weeks gestation. If this is not your first baby you can expect to feel your baby a bit sooner. This is usually so because you recognise the feeling and also because your uterus is more stretched out than it was the first time round.

Some moms can feel their babies move as early as 13 to 16 weeks from the start of their last period. Remember that each woman and each pregnancy is different, so you may not feel movement as early as another mom. There is a broad range of when the first detection of movement can be felt, ranging from 13 to 25 weeks. Even though you are only likely to feel your baby move about the middle of your pregnancy, your baby has been moving inside you since she was six to eight weeks old. Even though she is still tiny (2.5cm) in length, she already has muscles along the length of her spine. Because her movements are so small and soft, you won’t be able to feel anything. By the 12th week of pregnancy your baby is rolling and flipping over, even frowning and over the next few weeks, she will develop an amazing range of movements. Over 20 different types of movements have been identified including sucking, hiccups and yawns. As your baby is continuing to develop she will stretch and flex her limbs. As you get further along in your pregnancy, you will begin to feel more obvious movements, such as kicking, punching, and rolling.

Your baby may also move as she responds to noise or to your emotions. If your baby finds a position that you are into be uncomfortable, she may also begin to squirm and stretch. Certain foods you eat could also cause your baby to be more active. As your pregnancy progresses, you will notice that she has periods of awake and sleep times.

Every baby is very different. Movement is a form of self-expression. You may have a cool cucumber inside you – or perhaps a hot chilli-pepper, although it does not mean that an active foetus will be a hyperactive child. Nor can you predict gender by foetal movements. Try to see your baby’s movements as a sign of well-being. As long as you are getting enough movements a day, don’t be concerned with movements that seem to be frequent.

Sometime in the third trimester you may notice that your baby’s movements are more frequent and vigorous and occur in a regular pattern. Though movements are still regular, they may decrease after week 32 because the baby is bigger and space within the uterus becomes restricted. Towards 38 weeks, baby’s movements may actually become uncomfortable or even painful. Typically helping baby shift position by doing some pelvic tilts will help alleviate this discomfort.

There may be reasons that you are not feeling movement as early as you are expecting to. This may be due to:

  • Your body weight.
  • Your baby’s position.
  • Location of your placenta (anterior placentas sometimes prevent moms from feeling baby until much later).

While it takes a mom a good 24 weeks to really begin feeling her baby, it will take dad and others longer. Your baby just needs to be a bit bigger before it can be felt from the outside. Between 28 to 32 weeks, others around you will feel your baby move if they put their hands on your belly.

After the joy of feeling movements for the first time – fear may set in. Is baby moving too much? Not enough? Medical studies have found that by doing foetal kick counts after the 28th week of pregnancy is actually one of the better predictors of foetal well-being.

Once you feel movement, you will probably be able to feel it every day. Should you be concerned, and you want to get your baby active, drink a big glass of orange juice and lay down to wait for your baby to move. Often when you are up moving around, your baby gets rocked to sleep, so when you stop moving, she is able to wake up and start moving on her own. Also deep breathing in a quiet moment can also give your baby a ‘rush’ of oxygen and cause a flurry of movements.

If you start to feel what you think is quickening, but has a definite pattern, like a tap every five to ten seconds, it could be that your baby has the hiccups! Hiccups, like the quickening are a sure sign that your baby is growing and is healthy inside your belly.

If you notice a significant deviation in your baby’s movement pattern, contact your health care provider. You should feel about 10 movements within a two hour period.

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