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Fetal Movement

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Nov 5, 2023.

What is fetal movement?

Fetal movements are the kicks, rolls, and hiccups of your unborn baby. You may start to feel these movements when you are 20 weeks pregnant. The movements grow stronger and more frequent as your baby grows. Fetal movements show that your unborn baby is getting the oxygen and nutrients he or she needs before birth. Fewer fetal movements may signal a problem with your baby's health.

What fetal movements are normal?

Fetal activity can be described by 4 states, from least to most active. During quiet sleep, your unborn baby may be still for up to 2 hours. During active sleep, he or she kicks, rolls, and moves often. During the quiet awake state, he or she may only move his or her eyes. The active awake state includes strong kicks and rolls.

What can affect fetal movement?

You may feel your baby move more after you eat, or after you drink caffeine. You may feel your baby move less while you are more active, such as when you exercise. You may also feel fewer movements if you are obese. Certain medicines can change your baby's movements. Tell your healthcare provider about the medicines you are taking.

How do I track my unborn baby's movements at home?

Fetal movement is most often felt when you lie quietly on your side. Your healthcare provider may ask you to count movements for 2 hours. He or she may ask you to track how long it takes for your baby to move 10 times. Keep a log of your baby's movements.

What tests can track my unborn baby's movements?

  • Fetal ultrasound: This test uses sound waves to show pictures of your baby on a monitor. Healthcare providers check your baby's movement, heart rate, and position.
    Pregnancy Ultrasound
  • Nonstress test: This is also called an NST. A small metal disc with gel on it is placed on your abdomen. A belt is wrapped around your abdomen to hold the disc in place. The monitor will record your baby's heart rate.
  • Fetal Doppler velocimetry: A small metal disc with gel on it is placed on your abdomen. The test uses sound waves to check the blood flow inside your placenta and umbilical cord.

Further information

  • The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
    P.O. Box 70620
    Washington , DC 20024-9998
    Phone: 1- 202 - 638-5577
    Phone: 1- 800 - 673-8444
    Web Address:

When should I contact my doctor?

  • It takes longer than usual to feel 10 of your unborn baby's movements.
  • You do not feel your unborn baby move at least 10 times in 2 hours.
  • The skin on your hands, feet, and around your eyes is more swollen than usual.
  • You have a headache for at least 24 hours.
  • Tiny red dots appear on your skin.
  • Your belly is tender when you press on it.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You do not feel your unborn baby move for 12 hours.
  • You feel cramping or constant pain in your abdomen.
  • You have heavy bleeding from your vagina.
  • You have a severe headache and cannot see clearly.
  • You are having trouble breathing or are vomiting.
  • You have a seizure.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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