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Pregnancy is a heavenly feeling, till the body starts giving symptoms of morning sickness and nausea. Once the baby gets bigger, it starts moving around and the discomfort gets real.
As the mother starts moving through different phases of pregnancy, the baby in the womb gets more playful. Movement of the baby during these stages is a very normal occurrence. In the first three months, there will be no movement. The next trimester will involve a minimal restlessness.
In the last three months, the first half will be very active with lots of kicks and shifts now and then. The baby tries to make the mother aware of its presence. The second half is usually without much movement as the baby has no space to stretch around in uterus.
Every baby comes with its own unique personality and kicks freely according to its energy level. A close look at all the factors relating to this exciting part of motherhood, can reveal a lot about the health of the baby.
Why Do Mothers Feel The Babies' Kicks?
The researchers observed that brainwaves movement in foetus inside the womb is pretty fast. If it shakes its right hand, the brainwaves are signalled in left hemisphere to feel the touch sensation in the right hand. Babies that are born prematurely stay active with fast brainwave impulses till the period of few weeks.
As soon as they become old by a few weeks, this natural instinct of fast brainwaves automatically dies down.
Kicks are very important for the foetus in the last three months. It develops the connection of brain with sensory input; it also helps the baby to get the perception of their own body. Random body movements and subsequent feedback from the environment helps the baby in effective brain mapping.
Sleep and movements are highly essential for the foetus and premature babies, as they contribute to cortical mapping and makes the babies feel protected.
With the development of the brain, the foetus starts getting sensitive to its own brain activity and kicks in response to such brainwaves. They also start picking up on external factors like sound, temperature, a certain change in the mother's movement, maternal mood swings, etc.
When the baby kicks, it helps to stretch all the muscles and limbs, and also provide a conscious connection to stimuli. However, doctors stay unsure about the difference in the frequency of movements, in different babies. Some babies have a longer duration of inactivity. Decreased to negligible activity during last trimester often leads to stillborn infants.
It is considered healthy if the mother feels around ten movements in the duration of two hours. However, there is no solid proof from any system that guarantees a healthy pregnancy based on the number of kick counts. Some mothers may not feel it much even if the baby moves.
What Should A Mother Do When The Baby Kicks?
1. Keep a count of the number of kicks
There are frequent movements by the baby in the last trimester. Many healthy mothers might not feel the kicks at all because of her being busy with other household work. However, it is recommended for her to sit and observe the baby kicks at a free time, probably afternoon after chores or evening.
However, all babies are different. Some spend their time sleeping all day long and stay active during the night. Others might be hyperactive all the time.
Babies sleep for almost seventeen hours in a day, where one nap lasts for about 50 minutes. If the baby kicks less than 15- 20 times in a day, and it has happened a few times already, the mother should immediately consult the doctor and seek advice.
2. Have a light snack
If the baby has slept in for too long and the mother cannot feel the movement, she should snack a little or have some juice. This creates a trigger in the bowel system and uterus and causes the baby to kick. It is one of the helpful tips for pregnancy in the last trimester. However, diabetic women should take care of what foods they consume. Any disease they carry can be passed on to the baby, if not taken appropriate prevention.
3. Do some light exercise
Many times babies are too shy to appear on camera during the ultrasound. A little jog or light exercises like jumping jacks could give them a mild jolt, and they might move to a new position.
4. Flash the tummy with torchlight
The baby can easily feel the changes in light and darkness in the outside world by the 23rd week. If the mother flashes the light over her tummy, they are very likely to turn and face away from it. That is an effective method to sense their movement.
5. Communicate with the foetus
The foetal hearing onsets during 16th week and gets fully mature by 22nd week. Babies can hear the sound of mother's voice, her blood pumping, and even loud noises in the external environment. It is a beautiful feeling to communicate with the foetus; sometimes they might even react as part of their reflex actions by wriggling, jolting or turning around.
6. Act a little nervous, within a certain limit
When moms crave some signal from their little ones, getting some butterflies in their bellies certainly helps. They could treat themselves with a horror movie or imagine a little panicky situation, to get the baby excited. However, a complete anxiety attack should be avoided as it won't be good for both the mother and her baby.
7. Sing soft lullaby or play gentle music
Babies inside a mother's womb love hearing soft lullabies or soothing instrumentals and songs. Sometimes can even react to it with little jiggle around the baby . If the baby is not moving for a while, this tip can surely help to get some enthusiastic response from the little one.
8. Take time to play with the baby
It would be an exhilarating feeling for the mother to play with the baby, when they kick. If the baby stretches out its arms or legs and gives a gentle punt, the mother can press back a little to show her awareness. If the baby is in a cheerful and lively mood, it can even respond back by kicking again.
9. Shift position frequently
The mothers might feel hurt by certain postures in which the baby sleeps. Moving towards 9th month, the baby keeps getting bigger and does not get much space to protrude. Their head shifts eventually towards pelvis region and the legs above in rib cage. Their slight movement can cause discomfort and pain for the expecting mother. She can take care to change her positions often when she feels these movements.
10. Enjoy of the phase
Although it might be painful for the mother in the 9th month, foetal kicks are an important part of its development. If she nurtures this feeling of carrying a new life and accepts this gratefully, this will provide her necessary strength to go through this phase.
It is important for a mother to maintain herself internally as well as externally to give a healthy birth. If there are no foetal movements, it shows that the baby is not active and immediately needs to be consulted with a doctor.
When Should The Baby Kicks Be Counted?
After 28 weeks of pregnancy, it is normally suggested to women to become attuned with the baby's movements. A time should be chosen when the baby stays most active, or when the mother can rest and focus herself properly. Consistency is the key; almost the same time should be inculcated in routine to count baby's movements. This helps to understand the patterns in which the foetus responds.
How Should The Foetal Movements Be Checked?
It is possible to miss baby's movements because of active life. Nevertheless, doctor should be immediately consulted in case of any reduction in kicks. It is suggested usually to lie down on the left side with the support of cushion and make oneself comfortable.
The mothers should then keep a track of the number of times the baby moves within two hours; it should be noted down. Gradually, the mother comes to know the natural movement of her baby. If the baby shows less than 10 kicks over an extended time, it is a better call to take the advice of care provider.
What Does The Reduced Baby Kicks Mean?
It might not be necessarily something major, but reduced foetal kicks can suggest a lack of oxygen or proper nutrition; this can put the baby in pain. A thorough foetal and maternal check-up is done to find out the cause of fewer movements.
An ultrasound is performed to observe placenta's blood flow and baby's reflex response to external stimuli. Any problem found out is discussed in details to avoid any further complications.
Movement Of Babies Post 8 Months
Although the babies are supposed to move all the time, after eight months, they are left with very little room for big stretch and rolls . Regardless, they will still play around with umbilical cord, and move gently to feel their faces and arms in the congested environment. Some babies even follow a natural rhythm in their hiccups, and experience it around the same time every day.
Does The Baby Kicks Help To Determine Their Future?
Somehow, the pattern of the foetal movements forms the basis to analyse their behaviour post birth. A link has been discovered between their kicks and early childhood disciplinary behaviour. Mostly, babies who are active in the womb, also keep their mothers on toes by being super active and lively. Babies who kick mostly active at night and sleep the entire day, turn out to be nocturnal at a later stage.
Foetal kicks are the first beautiful communication the baby establishes. Keeping all the above tips in mind can certainly ensure a stress-free pregnancy and delivery.
-  Whitehead, Kimberley & Meek, Judith & Fabrizi, Lorenzo. (2018). Developmental trajectory of movement-related cortical oscillations during active sleep in a cross-sectional cohort of pre-term and full-term human infants. Scientific Reports. 8.
-  Winje, B. A., Røislien, J., & Frøen, J. F. (2012). Temporal patterns in count-to-ten fetal movement charts and their associations with pregnancy characteristics: a prospective cohort study. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, 12, 124.
-  Heazell A. (2015). A kick in the right direction - reduced fetal movements and stillbirth prevention. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, 15(Suppl 1), A7 A7
-  DiPietro, J. A., Bornstein, M. H., Costigan, K. A., Pressman, E. K., Hahn, C. S., Painter, K., ... & Yi, L. J. (2002). What does fetal movement predict about behavior during the first two years of life?. Developmental Psychobiology: The Journal of the International Society for Developmental Psychobiology, 40(4), 358-371.
-  Arya, R., Chansoria, M., Konanki, R., & Tiwari, D. K. (2012). Maternal Music Exposure during Pregnancy Influences Neonatal Behaviour: An Open-Label Randomized Controlled Trial. International Journal of Pediatrics, 2012, 901812.
-  Bradford, B., & Maude, R. (2018). Maternal perception of fetal movements in the third trimester: A qualitative description. Women and Birth, 31(5), e287-e293.