In the third trimester, a fetal movement decrease can be worrisome.
The closer you get to the big day, the more worried you may feel about your baby’s kicking patterns. Is a fetal movement decrease normal? Should you do anything about it?
In this article, you’ll learn the possible causes of fetal movement decrease and when to contact your doctor.
Baby Kicking Feeling: What Does it Feel Like?
If you haven’t felt your baby move yet, you might wonder how the baby kicking feeling is described. Some people say the baby kicking feels like:
- Muscle spasms
- Hunger pains
- Popcorn popping
In addition to kicking, you’ll also feel other movements like:
Keep in mind that everyone and every baby is different, so how you personally describe the feeling may differ.
Second Trimester Fetal Movement
Although your baby may move in the first trimester, you aren’t able to feel it yet.
Around week 20, you’ll begin to feel fetal movement. This fluttering or bubbly feeling for the first time is called quickening. This sudden onset of movement may even wake you up at night. At first, you may question whether you’ve actually felt movement or if it’s just gas or butterflies. For this reason, second-time mothers who know what to expect may notice fetal movement earlier than first-time mothers.
When quickening begins, fetal movement will be unpredictable. It will come and go, perhaps without you feeling anything for days at a time. At this stage, that’s normal.
Over time, the movements will intensify and become more obvious.
Third Trimester Fetal Movement
In the third trimester, by week 28, fetal movement should be predictable and frequent. Pay attention to when you feel kicks and you’ll probably begin to notice a pattern. For example, maybe she’s active during certain times of the day or after specific activities.
Many experts recommend counting kicks starting at week 28. Counting kicks can allow you to spot if something is wrong and if there’s decreased fetal movement.
Counting kicks is simple. The guideline is that you should feel about 10 movements in 2 hours. Counting kicks is easiest when your baby is most active. Typically, this is after you’ve eaten a meal. Sometimes you might reach 10 kicks within 15 minutes, other times it could take longer. If you’re past 28 weeks and don’t feel 10 movements in 2 hours, contact your doctor. Although this sometimes happens, it could also be a sign something is wrong.
Download the BabyDoppler app to easily track kicks.
Rapid Fetal Movement Third Trimester
Rapid fetal movement in the third trimester is unlikely to be a sign something is wrong. However, you should still tell your doctor ASAP. In some cases, rapid fetal movement could signal an abnormality. One study showed that excessive fetal movements were linked to higher odds of a large fetus for gestational age.
Any deviations from your baby’s normal movement pattern should be reported. Try to note down what you were doing before your baby started rapidly moving. Your doctor may be able to find a cause. If there’s concerns, an ultrasound may be recommended.
Painful Fetal Movement Third Trimester
Some people wonder if painful fetal movement in the third trimester is normal. When should you call the doctor?
Painful fetal movement in the third trimester may be normal. Many people feel discomfort or some pain as their baby’s movement intensifies. Specifically, you may feel it in your ribs or stomach. Consider that as your baby grows, there’s less room for her in your belly. For this reason, you’ll feel movements more intensely. Her muscles are also growing stronger, so her kicks may be more powerful.
Sharp pains in the pelvis or vagina may also be “lightening.” Lightening, also known as dropping, happens when your baby drops into the pelvis to get ready for birth. Lightening happens at a different time for everyone, usually days or weeks before delivery is planned. This can feel like pressure, sharp jolts, or low back pain.
Read: When Does Baby Turn Head Down? Baby Drop FAQs Answered
While some discomfort and pain during fetal movements are normal in the third trimester, it may also signal a problem. If your pain doesn’t let up or is severe, seek medical attention ASAP. It’s also a cause for concern if your pain continues even when the baby isn’t moving.
If you’re not sure if your pain is severe enough to go to the hospital, contact your doctor and ask what’s normal for you.
Possible Causes of Fetal Movement Decrease
Although you should always contact your doctor if you notice a change, a fetal movement decrease usually doesn’t signal anything is wrong. However, in some cases, it could be a warning sign.
Normal Causes of Fetal Movement Decrease
- Sex can cause a fetus to become more awake or sleepy. The rhythmic motion of sex or orgasm can put your baby to sleep, causing a decrease in fetal movement.
- Similar to sex, the movement of your body can lull your baby to sleep, causing her to move less.
- Running errands or doing chores. Even if you’re not exercising, anything that gets you up and moving can make your baby tired. You might notice that when you’re out during the day, your baby sleeps. But when you’re resting at home, she suddenly becomes active.
- For any number of reasons, fetal movement may have decreased because your baby is sleeping. After about 7 months, a fetus spends most of their time sleeping inside the womb.
- Size of baby. Another factor that affects your fetal movement later in pregnancy is the size of your baby. As your baby grows, she takes up more space in the womb, meaning there’s less room for her to move around, decreasing the movement you feel. This is particularly true around your due date when she approaches her birth weight and size.
- Birth is approaching. As you get closer to your due date, you may notice that movement is less frequent or less powerful. That could be because your baby has dropped into the pelvis to get ready for the big day. When this happens, babies may be less active.
Worrisome Causes of Fetal Movement Decrease
- Amniotic Fluid. Too much amniotic fluid provides a cushioning effect, making you less likely to feel your baby’s movements. When there’s a reduced amount of fluid, your baby has a harder time moving. Too much or too little amniotic fluid should be monitored by your doctor, but usually doesn’t affect your pregnancy health.
- Fetal Distress A baby who doesn’t receive enough oxygen will have decreased movement and could stop moving. Oxygen supply issues can be caused by umbilical cord or placenta problems. This is a serious problem that requires continuous monitoring. Your doctor may also suggest delivery.
Fetal Movement Decrease: Can You Get Baby Moving?
Sometimes parents think they’re experiencing a fetal movement decrease when really their baby is just sleeping. To check, you can encourage your baby to move using a few tricks. Try the suggestions below.
- Press your belly and see if your baby kicks back
- Drink a cold glass of water
- Drink a sugary glass of juice
- Have a snack
- Do some light exercise
- Relax on the couch
- Change sitting or lying positions
- Talk to your baby
- Play some music
Fetal Movement Decrease: What To Do
If you notice that fetal movement has decreased, should you call the doctor? If you tried the tricks above to get your baby moving with no luck, it’s a good idea to reach out for advice.
You should seek medical attention whenever you notice a deviation in the pattern of normal fetal movement. Many experts suggest reaching out if you count fewer than 10 movements in 2 hours.
Your doctor may use their in-office fetal doppler to detect your baby’s heartbeat and make sure she’s okay. If you have a home fetal doppler, you can also share the results with your doctor for their interpretation.
Keep in mind that home fetal dopplers do not replace doctor’s appointments and cannot replace medical advice. Instead, use your home fetal doppler during virtual appointments with your healthcare provider. You can also use the BabyDoppler app to record your baby’s heartbeat and send the audio file to your doctor for advice.
Summary: Fetal Movement Decrease
A fetal movement decrease in the third trimester usually doesn’t signal something is wrong. However, every case of changed fetal movement should be reported to your doctor. Usually, fetal movement decreases happen when the baby is sleeping. If you think this could be the case, use the suggestions above to try to get your baby moving. If there’s still no movement and you haven’t experienced 10 movements in 2 hours, contact your doctor.
Do You Have a Fetal Doppler?
Similar to an ultrasound, fetal dopplers use a probe and ultrasound gel to detect your baby’s heartbeat. You can hear the sound through speakers and see the fetal heart rate displayed on screen. Many parents love sharing the results with their doctor or midwife between appointments.