Every mother will remember exactly the exciting and emotional moment when she felt her baby’s first kicks in utero. Fact is, this is also a crucial sign that your baby’s doing fine in the run-up to the birth. You should start feeling the kicks — called quickening — at around weeks 20 to 22 or about four months into your pregnancy. The kicks will start sooner, at around week 18, for subsequent pregnancies.
Bubba’s kicks will become more apparent in the period leading to the last month of your pregnancy. SmartParents expert Dr Christopher Chong, an obstetrician-gynaecologist at Gleneagles Hospital, explains that your baby’s movements may decrease in strength but not frequency as the uterus gets more and more crowded.
“Generally, obese patients do not feel as many or [as] strong movements as [their] slimmer [counterparts].”
While your little one’s kicks — in terms of the frequency, feeling and force — are unique to your baby, you could also be influencing their movements, too. Dr Chong notes, “Generally, obese patients do not feel as many or [as] strong movements as [their] slimmer [counterparts].” He says mothers with weaker abdominal muscles are more likely to be able to see the kicks, in addition to feeling them. If your baby feels less active, he offers several reasons:
1) Consumption of antihistamines If you are on medication that has sedative effects (makes you feel drowsy), it will likely affect baby’s movements in the womb, too.
2) You are feeling unwell If you’re feeling depressed or stressed, it could also reduce your baby’s movements. Seek medical help immediately.
3) Organ or anatomical issues There could be an issue with your child’s development if the decline in your baby’s kicks persists ― consult your gynaecologist.
4) Lack of fluid in the water bag Your growing foetus is constantly swishing in the amniotic fluids inside the womb, so its movements and development may be compromised by the lack of fluids. Seek medical help immediately.
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5) Lacking oxygen When the umbilical cord, which is responsible for delivering oxygenated blood to your developing foetus, is twisted, it may cause the oxygen level to dip. Known as foetal hypoxia, the foetus’ movements will therefore slow, so as to conserve its energy.
6) Malposition of the foetus Your baby’s kicks may be affected if it’s lying in an abnormal position, like the “transverse” position (baby is lying across your belly). Under such conditions, his head and legs end up on either side of your body. Placenta praevia ― where the placenta is in a low-lying position and partially or wholly blocks the neck of the uterus — can also cause the malposition of the foetus. In the latter, a caesarean section will be required.
7) Baby could just be resting While there is no specific time at which you should feel your little one’s jabs, Dr Chong stresses total number of kicks should be about the same every day overall. He says, “Essentially, one does not need to count and record every movement, but if [you] feel that the foetus is moving less, then, it’s important to monitor them.”
Over a 12-hour period, a healthy foetus is expected to move — in the form of jabs, punches, kicks or simply stretching — at least 10 times.
To keep track of your foetal movements, your ob-gyn would have told you about the Count to Ten Chart for monitoring your foetus’s movements. Generally, over a 12-hour period, a healthy foetus is expected to move — in the form of jabs, punches, kicks or simply stretching — at least 10 times.
You should feel concerned if you feel that your baby’s movements have dropped over time. Dr Chong warns, “The mum must be vigilant, not [to] seek help [only] when there is no movement. They should see their gynae, when movements decrease. Otherwise, it might be too late to save the child.”
While you might have heard of the home Doppler ― a medical tool that allows you to hear your baby’s heartbeat ― to check on your baby’s well-being, Dr Chong cautions against doing so, as it might actually add to your anxieties instead of quelling them.
He points out that because of the expectant mum’s obesity or baby’s ever-changing position, some mothers might find it difficult to pick up their foetus’ heartbeats. Even if the expectant mum is able to detect the baby’s heartbeat, he adds, she may be lulled into a false sense of security that it’s normal. He cautions that she may then delay getting treatment even though “the [fluid] level in the water bag is very low or when the [blood pressure] in the umbilical cord is very high”.
What’s more important, Dr Chong stresses, is that mums-to-be monitor their foetus’ movements, see the gynae regularly and follow their instructions!
Dr Christopher Chong is an obstetrician-gynaecologist at Gleneagles Hospital.
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