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Pregnant? Learn how to count kicks

Wondering about your baby's well-being is a normal part of expecting. But there's a refreshingly simple way to help you know if your baby is OK: Count their kicks.

What are kick counts?

Counting kicks is all about establishing what a normal amount of movement is for your baby. Feeling the same amount of movement from one day to the next can be a thumbs-up that your baby is doing well.

Doctors have a fancy name for this: fetal movement counting. And your provider may advise it if your pregnancy is high risk or you've felt your baby move less than what you think is normal.

But it may be beneficial for all pregnancies, starting at 28 weeks. Plus, taking the time to be attentive to your baby's kicks will encourage you to carve out time for rest. Even better, it can help you start bonding with your baby before the two of you meet.

How it's done

The best time to count kicks is when your baby is most active. Usually, that's after a meal, after you've been physically active or when you've eaten something sweet. You may also find that your baby moves more between 9 p.m. and 1 a.m., as your blood sugar level is dropping.

Find a comfortable position for counting. For some moms-to-be that's sitting in a well-supported position with their arms around their bellies. But lying on your left side—if that's comfortable—boosts circulation, which can make your baby move more.

There are many different ways to count kicks. But an easy one is to watch the clock and track how long it takes to feel 10 kicks, flutters, swishes or rolls. 

Ideally, you should feel at least 10 movements within two hours. But chances are those 10 kicks will occur in less time.

And what if the kicks aren't coming? Don't panic. Every baby has its own level of activity. What's more, yours could simply be getting some shut-eye.

Still, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists advises alerting your provider if it takes longer than two hours for your baby to make 10 movements. Call your provider as well if your baby's pattern of kicks has changed significantly.

None of this means anything is wrong with your baby. But additional tests may be necessary to be sure.

What are other ways to bond with your baby?

Check out these tips to get closer to your baby—before and after birth.

Sources: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; American Pregnancy Association

Reviewed 3/8/2021

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