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Rhythmic Jerks and Other Fetal Movement: What to Expect

Curious about fetal movement? Wondering about the kicks, rolls, and rhythmic jerks you feel from your baby? I’ll help you understand all types of movements and what to expect with them!

Fetal movement is the sensation of your baby kicking, rolling, or hiccuping inside your womb. First movements may feel like tiny flutters that progress to strong kicks as your baby grows. You may feel rhythmic jerks in your belly if your baby has hiccups!

  • Types of Fetal Movement:
    There are different types of fetal movements, such as kicks, rolls, flutters, and hiccups.
  • Fetal Movement Patterns: Babies have patterns of movement that vary with your activity level, diet, and baby’s sleep cycles.
  • How to Encourage Movement: You can stimulate your baby to move by changing positions, eating, or drinking.
  • Kick Counts: Kick counts are an easy way to learn your baby’s movement patterns and bond with him/her

Reader Angela Asks About Rhythmic Jerks:

I’m 8 months pregnant. I started to feel movements after the 7th month was completed. I feel a repetitive movement (usually at the same point) by the baby and it does stop until I walk around.

It can go on for minutes if I let it.There is always a rhythm to the jerks,like every 1 to 1.5 seconds and the location does not change once it starts. Changing positions or bouncing while sitting is not helping now.

This occurs at least once a day. It can be quite irritating and later on worrisome that the baby is in some kind of distress or even having fits. In previous scans the baby moves in a wave-like motion with rhythm. It seemed quite strange but the doctor said its ok.

I’d like to tell the OB/GYN but don’t know how to express it medically. Its not the uterus having spasms or Braxton hicks but definitely the baby’s movement.

Do I need to be concerned over this?

Here’s my answer to Angela…

 and a complete discussion of baby’s movement pattern!

Hi Angela,

You should always ask your doctor about things if you’re concerned – and don’t worry if you think it’s silly. Your doctor has heard sillier questions before 😉

Having said that, what you’re describing sounds very normal to me – in fact, it sounds like your baby has the hiccups 🙂

Many, many women notice that their babies get the hiccups a lot. I have always had very active babies… and babies who were constantly hiccuping, even in the womb.

We do not know why babies hiccup so much in the womb, but it is a fact that they do (lots of hiccups!)

It’s probably often in the same location because at this point your baby is pretty settled into a position, so you feel the movements in the same places.

Read on for more information on fetal movement:

Understanding Fetal Movement: Your Baby’s First Language

Most pregnant moms start feeling fetal kicks near the end of the second trimester. Eventually, the movement ranges from gentle flutters to active kicks, rolls, and even hiccups. These movements are your baby’s way of communicating, “Hey, mama, I’m here and growing!”

The Importance of Fetal Movement for Your Baby

You may be wondering why fetal activity is important. They’re more than just a sweet sensation for you to feel. Each kick and roll plays a vital role in your baby’s development. Good movement = healthy babies.

  • Muscles and Bones Development: Think of your baby’s movements as their own prenatal workout. Just as you exercise to strengthen your muscles and bones, your baby’s actions stimulate his or her muscle, bone, and nervous system development.
  • Health Check-In: Each flutter and twist is a reassuring sign of your baby’s health and activity. By the end of your pregnancy, the number of fetal movements you feel is the best way to know your baby is doing well. A sudden decrease or increase in movement can provide an early indication if something’s wrong. Always trust your instincts if you’re worried!

The Benefits of Fetal Movement for You

Feeling your baby move inside you is a tangible reminder of this new little life. It also helps create a deep, emotional connection with your baby.

  • Motherhood Preparation: Each movement is a gentle reminder that your baby is coming – and that you’re not alone on this journey! Movements are a great reminder to take a few minutes out of your busy day to enjoy bonding with your little one.
  • Reassurance and Joy: Pregnancy can be an emotional roller coaster. But every movement from your baby serves as a way to give your close attention to baby and his or her well-being. Regular movement provides daily reassurance!

(NOTE: Trying to balance your pregnancy, life, and getting ready for baby? Use my checklist pack stay healthy (naturally), organized, and confident throughout your pregnancy! Get them here.)

Ultimate Pregnancy Checklist Pack

You can respond to baby’s movements with gentle pats and words (your baby learns to recognize your voice!). Remember, this experience is not just about monitoring your baby’s health, but also about bonding with your little one, preparing for motherhood, and finding joy in the journey.

I still miss feeling my babies’ movements in my belly!

Remember, every pregnancy is unique, just like every baby’s movements. There are typical movements and a regular pattern for most babies, though, so let’s talk about that next.

Baby with striking eyes behind text for fetal movement graphic

Understanding Your Baby’s Movements During Pregnancy

As an experienced mother of eight and a dedicated pregnancy coach, I’ve had the joy of feeling and observing fetal movement’s joy countless times. It’s a unique language, a special way your baby communicates with you from within the womb.

The Initial Quickening: A Gentle Flutter

The first fetal movements you’ll likely notice, typically between weeks 16 and 22 of your pregnancy, feel like a gentle fluttering. If you’re a first-time mom, you might feel these sensations later.

However, if this is your second or subsequent pregnancy, you’ll likely detect these flutters earlier than in your first pregnancy.

An anterior placenta (when the placenta sits at the front of the uterus) can mask early kicks.

This subtle bubbling or tickling feeling of early fetal movements is your baby stretching their tiny arms and legs. 

Wave-Like Rolls

Your baby begins to adjust his/her position or orientation in your womb. This is when you may start to feel what’s commonly called rolling. Picture a smooth, wave-like motion within your belly.

It’s your baby flipping from a head-down to a breech position (bum down) or vice versa. This movement signifies that your baby is exploring his or her tiny world.

Many mamas worry about baby’s position, but it’s normal for babies to flip back and forth between breech and vertex (bum down and head down) many times throughout the day earlier in pregnancy.

Click here for more information on baby position in the womb (including illustrations and a video on finding your baby’s position yourself!).

Baby may not flip quite as much in first pregnancies as in later pregnancies, when your muscles are a little more relaxed. But some babies are very active and flip a lot, regardless of if you’re a first time mom or not!

In the last trimester, when your baby is bigger you won’t feel these movements as much, but babies can and do flip a lot until around 30-32 weeks.

The Swift Swish

Next comes the swishing. This swift or forceful movement feels like a swooshing or sliding sensation within your abdomen. It’s your baby moving an arm or leg along the uterine wall.

Sudden Flips

Occasionally, you might sense a sudden or jerky movement within your belly. This is your baby performing a somersault or a flip. It may feel similar to a roll, or feel jerkier, like someone trying to get comfortable in bed.  

This sensation may only begin once baby is too big to flip smoothly. It can be shocking, especially the very first time you feel it. 

Some babies don’t seem to make these huge movements, though they could be slower at turns, or an anterior placenta could mask movement.

Rapid Ripples: A Dance of Movement

You might also experience what I like to refer to as ripples. These are light, rapid, and consistent-intensity movements. 

Ripples are basically an in-womb dance routine! They’re an indication of your baby’s developing agility and reflexes.

Elbow Nudges: A Sharp Push

You may feel a sharp or pointed sensation as your baby stretches or pushes his or her elbows against your belly.  These elbow nudges can sometimes leave you feeling tender (a foot can cause this, too). You can gently push back to get baby to move his or her elbow/knee.

Powerful Kicks: A Strong Communication

And lastly, there are the anticipated kicks and punches. These kicks leave no room for doubt about your baby’s strength. Whether it’s a reaction to your voice or touch or simply a sign of baby’s activity, these kicks are a clear sign of his or her presence!

Remember, each baby is unique, and so is his or her pattern of movements. However, understanding what to anticipate can help you bond with your baby and interpret their little signals. Cherish these precious moments, mama!

(NOTE: Want a Perfect Birth Plan Template? Use this template and step-by-step videos to write a birth plan that gets your birth team on your side for a beautiful birth experience! Get the birth plan kit here.)

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Understanding Fetal Hiccups

Somewhere in your second trimester, you might feel a rhythmic pulsing or twitching sensation in your belly. It’s different from the kicks and flips you’ve grown used to; this is more consistent and more rhythmic. It could even feel like the rhythmic jerks Angela described in the question above.

Fetal hiccups are a type of movement your little one makes when s/he contracts his/her diaphragm, the muscle that separates the chest from the abdomen. This is one of the many ways your baby prepares for life outside your womb.

Why Do Unborn Babies Get Hiccups?

You’re probably wondering why fetal hiccups happen. There are several reasons:

  • Breathing Practice: Your little one might hiccup when s/he swallows amniotic fluid or practices breathing. This can irritate their diaphragm, causing it to contract and result in hiccups.
  • Development: Fetal hiccups also play a role in your baby’s development. They help strengthen your baby’s lungs and diaphragm, preparing him/her for breathing post-birth. It’s all part of their in-utero training!
  • Health Indicator: Fetal hiccups can be a positive sign of your baby’s health and well-being. They reflect the normal functioning of his/her nervous system.

The Frequency of Fetal Hiccups

The frequency and duration of fetal hiccups can vary significantly. Some babies may hiccup a few times daily, while others may only do so occasionally. Typically, they last for a few minutes, but sometimes, they can last up to an hour, which might be a bit uncomfortable for you.

Remember, every baby is unique and will have their own pattern of movements and hiccups. My first baby had the hiccups frequently in the womb – and she got them a ton when she was born, too. She still gets hiccups more often than any of my other kids!

Ultrasound collage behind text for fetal movement graphic

Fetal Movement Patterns: What You Need to Know

You may notice that your baby’s movements follow a pattern. Different patterns of movement emerge throughout pregnancy. Factors like diet, activity levels, and even the time of day can influence them!

Understanding Your Baby’s Sleep Cycles

Sleep cycles alternate between different stages of sleep, such as rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and non-REM sleep.

These cycles directly impact fetal movement as they mirror the activity and development of your baby’s brain. In the REM stage, the fetal brain is more active, exhibiting brain waves similar to those of an awake brain. This heightened activity often increases movements like kicking, stretching, or hiccuping.

During non-REM sleep, the fetal brain slows down, resulting in fewer movements as your baby rests and conserves energy.

These sleep cycles typically emerge around the seventh month of pregnancy, marked by the first observed rapid eye movements. The duration and frequency of these cycles can vary based on the gestational age, the time of day, and factors like your diet, stress, and activity.

How Your Diet Influences Fetal Movement

Your diet doesn’t just keep you low-risk and your baby healthy…

…it influences your baby’s movements, too!

Similar to how certain foods can affect your energy levels and mood, they can also stimulate your baby, leading to increased movement. For instance, foods high in sugar or caffeine can make your baby more active. 

A protein-rich, nutrient-dense diet can result in more regular and consistent movement patterns.  Click here for more on how your pregnancy diet can keep you low-risk and baby healthy!

If you want to get your baby moving, a snack with sugar can often wake your baby up!

Your Position and Your Baby’s Movements

Your body position can significantly influence how much you feel your baby move.

Most moms report feeling their baby’s movements more when lying down or sitting.

This is because you’re more likely to notice subtle movements when you’re still. But when you’re standing or moving around, there’s less movement, and these kicks might blend with your movements, making them less noticeable.

Babies rarely move when you’re up and walking around!

Times of Day

Your baby’s pattern will quickly become established, and you’ll likely notice more movement in the evening hours. This is an excellent time to do kick counts (discussed below), because most babies get more active at night.

Babies are generally more active once you settle down, so you’ll notice a lot of movement – often, it feels like your baby is executing acrobat maneuvers! Expect more movement from your unborn baby as you’re sitting quietly; many babies are especially active as you’re trying to get to sleep!

Fetal Movement Patterns: A Trimester-by-Trimester Guide

Pregnancy is an ever-evolving journey, with your little ones movements changing depending on the weeks of pregnancy. Here’s an overview:

First Trimester: Your Developing Baby

First pregnancy, second pregnancy, or beyond, the biggest question is usually, “When will I feel my baby move?” As a pregnancy coach and mother of eight, I’ve found it’s rare for mamas to feel movement during the first trimester (weeks 1-12).

Your little one is still too tiny – but s/he is developing rapidly now!

By the 8th week, your baby begins to move, but these motions are spontaneous and driven by primitive reflexes and the brainstem. (Bonus fact: Around the 6th week, your baby’s heart begins to beat, which can be detected via ultrasound scan).

Click here for more on first trimester development

Second Trimester: The Quickening 

In the second trimester (weeks 13-28), things truly get exciting! Between 16 and 22 weeks, you’ll start to note your baby’s first movements, referred to as “quickening.”

It feels like a gentle fluttering or bubbling sensation in your lower abdomen. For me, those first kicks were more like tiny bubbles popping inside my lower abdomen.

Initially, you might not feel it daily as your baby’s movements are still irregular and subtle. However, you’ll notice patterns as your baby’s movements become more organized and rhythmic.

Like I noted above, you’ll notice patterns as your baby’s movements become more organized and rhythmic You might find your baby is more active at certain times of the day, such as after a meal or snack, or during the evening or morning.

Your baby will also respond to your voice, touch, or music as s/he develops tactile, auditory, and visual systems.

Click here for more on second trimester development

Third Trimester: Vigorous Movements

As you enter the final stretch, the third trimester (29-42 weeks gestation), your baby’s movements become more vigorous and noticeable. 

This is because your baby has less room to maneuver in your womb. You’ll experience a variety of movements, from kicks and punches to rolls, twists, stretches, and those hiccups!

Your baby will also have regular sleep and wake cycles, and you might notice that s/he is more active at certain times of the day or night.

As you approach your due date, you might notice changes in your baby’s movements, such as changing position, or dropping lower.

Contrary to popular belief, your baby should move as much at the end of pregnancy as during earlier pregnancy. If you notice fewer movements, let your care provider know.

Remember, each baby is unique, and so is their movement pattern. Trust your instincts! You’re already your baby’s number-one advocate!

Click here for more on third trimester development

Fetal Neurobehavioral Development: Why Babies Move

Ever been curious about the flurry of activity inside your belly? Those kicks and movements are more than just signs of wakefulness and activity. They are the manifestation of your baby’s neurobehavioral development, a process where the brain and nervous system mature, influencing their behavior and movement.

The Four-Stage Model:

Let’s explore the four-stage model, a framework that outlines this process:

Stage 1: The Balancing Act (Weeks 7-14)

In the first stage, your baby’s vestibular system, which governs balance and orientation, is being developed. Those initial tiny flutters you feel? That’s your baby trying out his/her newfound balancing skills!

Stage 2: Getting a Feel for Things (Weeks 15-24)

The second stage is about developing the proprioceptive system, which lets your baby sense the position and movement of their limbs. Your baby is starting to understand his or her body, learning the dance of limb coordination.

Stage 3: Touch and Go (Weeks 25-32)

The third stage brings the development of the tactile system, enabling your baby to feel touch and pain. When your baby responds to your belly rub, it’s the tactile system at work!

Stage 4: The Final Act (Weeks 33-40)

The last stage revolves around the auditory and visual systems. Your baby can now hear and see, heightening their awareness of their surroundings. Those moments when your baby seems to react to your voice or a lullaby? That’s their auditory system in action!

The Three-Phase Model: Adapting to Life Inside

Another perspective on fetal neurobehavioral development is the three-phase model, which underscores your baby’s development’s dynamic and adaptive nature.

Phase 1: The Early Moves (Weeks 7-19)

During the first phase, your baby’s movements are spontaneous and random, propelled by primitive reflexes and the brainstem. It’s his/her first foray into the world of movement.

Phase 2: Rhythm and Routine (Weeks 20-31)

In the second phase, your baby’s movements evolve to be more organized and rhythmic, mirroring the influence of circadian rhythms and the limbic system. It’s as if your baby is settling into a routine with predictable periods of activity and rest.

Phase 3: The Final Stretch (Weeks 32-40)

In the final phase, your baby’s movements become more complex and variable, modulated by cortical activity and sensory feedback. This is when your baby fine-tunes his or her movements, gearing up for life outside the womb.

Why Does This Matter?

Understanding this journey of fetal neurobehavioral development can provide insights into normal and abnormal patterns of fetal movement and behavior.

It can offer clues about their health and potential, help identify any risk factors, and enhance your bond with your baby. It also promotes prenatal stimulation and education!

So the next time you feel your baby move, remember, it’s not just a kick or a roll – it’s a peek into your baby’s development!

What to Expect from Fetal Movement banner with cute baby behind text

Engaging with Your Baby’s Movements

Did you know your baby can hear your voice from inside the womb? Research indicates that babies start to recognize their mother’s voice in the third trimester.

You can engage with your little one throughout the day by sharing your thoughts, dreams, and favorite songs. You may notice increased movement or kicking when you’re speaking or singing. This interaction strengthens your bond, laying the foundation for a lifetime of love and connection.

The Power of Touch

Gently massaging your belly during pregnancy is not just soothing, it also creates a physical connection with your baby. As you glide your hands over your belly, note how your baby responds to your touch. The shifts and kicks you feel show his or her awareness of your touch.

Playing Games with Your Baby

Yep, you can start playing games with your baby while he or she is still in the womb! Try tapping gently on your belly and see if your baby responds with a kick or a wiggle. This interaction is fun and provides a glimpse into their developing personality.

Involving Your Partner and Family

Sharing the experience of fetal movement with your partner or other family members can be a fantastic way to involve them in your pregnancy journey.

Encourage them to feel your baby’s kicks or to talk to your baby. This creates a sense of connection and anticipation among your loved ones, strengthening the bond with your baby.

Imagining Your Baby’s Personality

Your baby’s movement offers a peek into his or her little world. As you feel your little one move and respond to your voice or touch, you might start to imagine what they look like or their personality.

 This process of imagining your baby can foster a deeper connection and heighten the excitement about meeting him or her.

Every pregnancy is unique, and every baby has a pattern of movement. So, take the time to tune into your baby’s unique rhythm and respond with love and attention. These moments of connection will form the foundation of the beautiful bond you’ll share with your little one.

The Power of Kick Counts: A Guide to Monitoring Your Baby’s Health

Kick counts, also known as fetal movement counting, are an easy and effective way to monitor your baby’s well-being.

This method involves tracking your baby’s movements within a specific timeframe, providing you with valuable insights into his or her health and habits.

The Significance of Kick Counts

Kick counts serve several crucial purposes. Primarily, they offer a practical method to monitor your baby’s health. Shifts in your baby’s movement patterns may indicate distress or a potential issue.

Moreover, kick counts help you become acquainted with your baby’s habits and rhythms. It’s a beautiful opportunity to connect with your baby before s/he is even born, as you’ll start to recognize when baby is most active or when s/he is likely resting.

Lastly, kick counts help you bond with your baby. Experiencing your baby move is a thrilling part of pregnancy, and kick counts allow you to cherish these moments.

How To Do Kick Counts

Doing fetal kick counts is simple. Follow this step-by-step guide:

  • Start Counting: You can start kick counts from the 28th week of pregnancy. If your pregnancy is considered high-risk or you’ve had complications in the past, you may want to start earlier.
  • Timing is Key: Opt for a time when your baby is usually active. This could be after a meal, a snack, a drink, or during the morning or evening. It’s a good idea to do it at the same time every day.
  • Find Your Comfort Zone: Find a comfortable position. Lying on your left side or relaxing in a recliner are good options.
  • Count the Movements: Record any movement you feel, such as kicks, punches, rolls, twists, flutters, or hiccups. Contractions or Braxton Hicks do not count.
  • Keep a Record: Keep track of how long it takes for your baby to move 10 times or the number of kicks you feel in an hour. You can keep a journal or use an app to record the number of times you feel your baby move. My favorite app is from CountheKicks.org – it helps you track the set number of movements easily.

Want personal support to stay healthy and low-risk through your pregnancy? Longing for authentic guidance to make your sacred birth dream a reality?

Click to book a pregnancy and birth visioning call with me. We’ll talk about your hopes and dreams and explore if my pregnancy coaching program is a good fit for you.

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When to Consult Your Healthcare Provider

Always contact your healthcare provider if you notice anything unusual about your baby’s movements. This could include fewer than 10 movements in 2 hours, no movements for more than 12 hours, extremely strong or painful movements, excessive fetal movements, or movements that cause contractions or bleeding.

Addressing Decreased Fetal Movement

Decreased fetal movement (DFM) refers to a reduced frequency or intensity of your baby’s movements. DFM could be due to maternal factors like obesity, smoking, medications, or stress, fetal factors such as growth restriction or congenital anomalies, or placental issues like placenta previa or insufficiency.

If you experience DFM, stimulate your baby’s movements by changing your position, eating or drinking, or playing music. Record your baby’s movements and make a note of each one. Contact your healthcare provider immediately and prepare for further tests or interventions if necessary.

Remember, your intuition as a mother is powerful.
If something feels off, honor that sense! Don’t hesitate to reach out to your healthcare provider. Kick counts are not just about counting movements, they’re about ensuring the health and well-being of your precious little one!

Kick Baby Kick!

Feeling your baby kick is one of the most precious things about pregnancy.

I found that each of my eight babies had different movement patterns – I learned a lot about their personalities immediately. My active babies are still my more active kids – and my laid-back baby is still my most laid-back child 😉

Enjoy feeling your baby’s movements! Keeping track of your baby and the wide range of movements, patterns, and responses he or she makes is an opportunity to slow down and bond with your little one. Blessings to you both!

FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some possible questions and answers for the FAQ section of the page about fetal movement:

Q: What are the first signs of fetal movement?

A: The first signs of fetal movement, quickening, usually occur between 16 and 22 weeks of pregnancy. You may feel a gentle fluttering, a feeling of tiny bubbles popping, or a tickle in your lower abdomen.

These movements are often subtle and easy to miss, especially when busy or distracted. As your baby grows, the movements will become stronger and more frequent.

Q: What is good fetal movement?

A: Good fetal movement means your baby is active and healthy inside your womb. Your baby’s movements may vary depending on the time of day, your activity level, and your baby’s position.

Some babies are more active than others, and there is no set number of movements that you should feel. However, you should get to know your baby’s normal movement pattern and pay attention to any changes.

Q: When should I be concerned about fetal movement?

A: You should be concerned about fetal movement if you notice a significant decrease or increase in your baby’s movements or if your baby stops moving altogether.

This could indicate a problem with your baby’s health or well-being. If you notice any of these signs, you should immediately contact your doctor or midwife.

They may ask you to do a kick count, a simple way to monitor your baby’s movements. To do a kick count, you should lie down on your left side and count how many movements you feel in two hours. You should feel at least 10 movements in this time. If you do not, you should call your doctor or midwife immediately.

Q: How can I encourage fetal movement?

A: You can do some things to encourage your baby to move more, especially if you want to do a kick count or just bond with your baby. Some of these include:

  • Drinking a glass of cold water or juice
  • Eating a snack or a meal
  • Changing your position or activity
  • Playing music or talking to your baby
  • Gently rubbing or massaging your belly

Q: What are the benefits of fetal movement?

A: Fetal movement is a sign of your baby’s health and development and a way for you and your baby to communicate and bond. Feeling your baby move can help you to:

  • Develop a closer connection with your baby
  • Learn about your baby’s personality and preferences
  • Prepare for labor and birth
  • Reduce stress and anxiety
  • Enhance your maternal instincts

(NOTE: Trying to balance your pregnancy, life, and getting ready for baby? Use my checklist pack stay healthy (naturally), organized, and confident throughout your pregnancy! Get them here.)

Ultimate Pregnancy Checklist Pack

More Information on Fetal Development & Healthy Pregnancy

Ultrasound photos behind text for fetal movement post graphic

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