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How often should the baby kick?
Q: I’m 35 weeks pregnant and was wondering how the baby’s kicks should be spaced out. Up until 34 weeks my baby kicked a certain amount every hour. Now I feel scared because she kicks the same amount in a two to three hour period.
Natasha Cayman Islands
A: I’m happy to read that you’re paying attention to your baby’s movements. Fetal movement is an excellent indicator of fetal well-being, and your baby should be moving every day from now until delivery. However, babies have different patterns of movement. Most babies have periods of movement followed by short naps. Sometimes it’s easier to feel your baby kicking when she is facing outward rather than when she faces your spine. Also a breech (head up) baby’s movements will feel different than a vertex (head down) baby.

Doctors use different criteria for judging sufficient fetal movement. I ask my patients to “check in” with their baby three times a day. Make sure you’ve noticed a flurry of movement once in the morning, afternoon and evening. (Keep in mind that the more active you are, the less you may be noticing your baby’s activity.) If you’re feeling concerned, perform fetal kick counts once a day. To do kick counts, rest on your side after drinking something nutritious, and see how long it takes for your baby to kick 10 times. You can determine your baby’s normal baseline to judge your baby’s activity level in the future. If your baby always takes less than an hour to move 10 times, and now takes more than three hours to produce the same movements, you should contact your doctor. But first be sure you have been eating and drinking adequately – babies can slow down if mums are dehydrated or have low blood sugar. If your baby doesn’t spontaneously perk up, your doctor will order a fetal heart rate monitor test to see if the baby’s heart rate pattern is normal. Occasionally, a change in your baby’s pattern of movement can indicate a problem. So don’t hesitate to communicate your concerns with your doctor.

Laura E. Stachel M.D. Obstetrician & Gynecologist