There are perhaps very few experiences that are comparable with the joys of experiencing your baby kick and move within your tummy! From the very moment of conception, it is something every pregnant mother years to feel and is among one of the more memorable aspects of pregnancy. However, paying attention to your baby’s kicks and counting them, particularly in your third trimester, further acts as a life-saving practice that has been linked to lowered risks of experiencing stillbirth and a tragic end to the pregnancy you worked so hard to sustain. Keeping a daily record of your baby’s kicks helps you form patterns and alerts you when you may experience decreased fetal movement third trimester.
Experts recommend that pregnant mothers start counting kicks in the 28th week of their pregnancy, or at 26 weeks if you are high risk or pregnant with multiples.
Despite a pregnancy progressing along smoothly and without much complication, even normal pregnancies can sometimes turn problematic, and usually active babies can also experience distress. This can sometimes happen quickly and without other warning signs except for decreased activity in the womb.
Pregnant mums should always pay attention to decreased fetal movement third trimester. Photo: iStock
Decreased fetal movement third trimester
How often should my baby move?
Fetal ‘kicks’ refer to any baby movement in the womb. The type of movements may change as the pregnancy progresses, and can feel like anything from a flutter, to a kick, swish, roll, jab and sometimes even punch!
While every baby is different and there is no set number of “normal” movements you should be experiencing, maintaining a daily record of kicks gives you an idea of usual patterns and alerts you to any decreased fetal movement that you may experience in the third trimester. In general, in the last trimester of your pregnancy, you should (on average) feel around 10 movements from your baby within an hour.
You should generally feel your baby move more and experience regular kicking anywhere from 18 – 24 weeks. Your baby’s movements are usually regulated after 32 weeks, and will stay roughly the same until delivery. Contrary to popular belief, it is not true that babies move less towards the end of pregnancy, and you should experience movement until labour and throughout the delivery as well.
Feeling your baby move within your tummy is a sign that everything is going smoothly and that he/she is well. Any changes in usual movement patterns often indicate warning signs that a baby is unwell, and may sometimes mean that the fetus is in distress. Observing your baby’s movements is important as this can lead to getting help at the right time and may save your baby’s life.
Decreased fetal movement third trimester: What should I do if baby’s movements reduce?
While every pregnancy is different and unique, most pregnant mums note that they first become aware of their baby’s movements between weeks 16 – 24 of pregnancy.
However, if you haven’t felt movement within your womb by 24 weeks of pregnancy, you should contact your healthcare provider who will check your baby’s heartbeat and perform an ultrasound to check on the baby’s wellness.
Doctors will usually perform an ultrasound to check on your baby’s wellbeing. Photo: iStock
Decreased fetal movement third trimester: Between weeks 24 and 28
Between your 24th to the 28th week of your pregnancy, anything out of the ordinary with regard to your baby’s movements should be reported to your doctor, and you should preferably see you on the same day if possible.
Any decreased fetal movement experienced at the point in your pregnancy requires your baby’s heartbeat to be checked, as well as a full routine check-up that should include:
- Measuring your bump to check the size of your baby
- Checking your blood pressure
- Performing tests on your urine to check for protein content
You will also usually have an ultrasound scan performed, especially if your baby is smaller than expected.
Experiencing decreased movements could mean that your baby is unwell, but most women who have reported an episode of decreased movements usually progress along with a straightforward pregnancy and healthy baby. It is imperative though that you receive medical help to ensure the safety of your baby.
Over 28 weeks of pregnancy
Any episodes of decreased activity after 28 weeks of pregnancy should be reported immediately, and you must visit a doctor as soon as possible. Do not wait a day to see if the situation is resolved and is back to normal, or even delay a few hours in reporting decreased fetal movement as this can be injurious to the safety of your baby. Your doctor will want to be notified immediately of any changes you are experiencing.
You will usually be sent to the maternity unit to have some tests performed that may include:
- Report on baby’s movements
- An antenatal check-up, including checking your baby’s heartbeat and measuring the size of your bump.
- Monitoring of your baby’s heart rate using a cardiotocography machine (CTG), usually for at least 20 minutes.
- An ultrasound scan
You should not be discharged until your baby’s movements have been regulated and you note usual patterns in your baby’s kicks.
Your baby’s heart rate will be monitored to check for any irregularities and warning signs that something may be wrong. Photo: iStock
What should I do if my baby’s movements reduce again upon being discharged?
After an episode of medical monitoring for an episode of decreased movement, you will be discharged when everything goes back to normal again. You will however need to keep a careful eye on your baby’s movements and report any decrease or change immediately, regardless of how often that happens.
It must be emphasised here that you need to report any and all change immediately to your healthcare providers without any fear of being a “nuisance” or a “bother” to hospital staff.
Do not try to take matters into your own hand and engage in the use of devices such as a home doppler, hand-held monitors, or phone apps to check on your baby at home. It does not mean that your baby is well even if you detect a heartbeat. You will need to be monitored by a cardiotocography machine or a medical professional who can interpret the baby’s heartbeat, and any treatment that could save your baby needs to be done when the baby has a heartbeat.
Do not try to make your baby move. If you think your baby’s movements have slowed down, stopped or changed contact your hospital or maternity unit immediately.
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