Fetal movement: When can you feel your baby move?

Feeling your baby kicking is one of the highlights of pregnancy. Here's when you can feel your baby move, and what it's like.

happy pregnant woman with hands on belly
Photo credit: Katie Rain for BabyCenter

When do you start feeling your baby move?

You probably won't feel your baby move until sometime between 16 weeks and 22 weeks, even though they started moving at 7 weeks or 8 weeks of pregnancy. (You may have witnessed the acrobatics if you've already had an ultrasound.)

Veteran moms tend to notice those first subtle kicks, also known as "quickening," earlier than first-time moms. That's because it's easier to distinguish your baby's kicks from other belly rumblings if you've been pregnant before. Moms with a higher BMI tend to feel their baby’s movement a little later than moms with lower BMI. And your baby's position matters, too – if they're anterior (facing your spine), you're likely to feel movement later than if they're facing your abdomen.

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Once you can feel your baby moving, it will probably be a few more weeks until your partner can feel the baby kick.

What does baby movement feel like?

We often talk about a baby's kicks, but their movements include jabs, rolls, and other motions. Women have described the early sensation as feeling like popcorn popping, a goldfish swimming around, or butterflies fluttering. You might think those first gentle taps or swishes in your belly are gas, but you'll recognize the difference once you start feeling them more regularly.

Once you've reached your third trimester, you won't be able to ignore your baby's jabs, rolls, and kicks. As they get larger, you may see a pointy elbow or knee moving across your belly or feel a full-on somersault.

Every pregnancy is different, so it's hard to say exactly what you'll feel and when, but here's a rough guide.

Baby movement at 16 to 19 weeks

You'll probably notice faint and fluttery feelings in your womb around this time. If you've been pregnant before, you'll be more familiar with this sensation and quicker to identify your baby's movements.

If this is your first pregnancy, it may take a bit longer before you realize that those gentle bubbling or popping sensations are actually your baby moving! It may be easier to feel your baby when you're sitting quietly or lying down.

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Baby movement at 20 to 23 weeks

You may notice gentle kicks and jabs. As the weeks go by, you'll gradually feel stronger and more frequent movements, and you'll come to recognize your baby's unique pattern of activity. If you don't feel your baby moving, tell your doctor or midwife.

You may find that your baby becomes livelier as the day goes on – kicking, squirming, and somersaulting the most in the evening when you're relaxed. Some moms notice their baby moving a lot right after they eat, especially if they have a sugary treat. But studies haven't found a link between what you eat and your baby's activity level.

Baby movement at 24 to 28 weeks

Your amniotic sac now contains up to 26 ounces of fluid. This gives your baby plenty of space to move around freely, so you may feel like your little one is doing elaborate acrobatics routines in your womb. Limb movements may feel punchy, while whole-body movements may be smoother. You may even notice your baby jumping at sudden noises, or you may feel repetitive jerking movements when your baby gets hiccups.

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Baby movement at 29 to 31 weeks

Your baby is likely to be making smaller, sharper, more definite movements, such as strong kicks and pushes. You may also occasionally feel a shaky movement, like a shiver, as your baby shakes a hand, shoulder, or elbow.

Depending on how your baby is positioned, you may feel the kicks up under your ribs, in the center or side of your belly, or very low in your pelvis. Some women report kicks to their cervix – which feel uncomfortable but are totally normal. Don't worry, no matter how strong your baby's kicks, they're safe inside and won't do any damage.

Baby movement at 32 to 35 weeks

As your baby grows and has less room to move, you may notice that the type of movement you feel changes, perhaps becoming slower but lasting longer.

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Baby movement at 36 to 40 weeks

After your baby moves to a head-down position in preparation for birth, you may feel kicks in new places, like underneath your ribs on one side or the other. Your baby's movements may feel slower but also harder and stronger. Jabs from their arms and kicks from their legs may feel uncomfortable or even painful.

It's not true that babies move less towards the end of pregnancy. They don't run out of room, though you may feel a change in the types of movement you feel. You should still be feeling your baby move right up until and even during labor itself.

When do you usually feel your baby move?

Some expecting moms notice their baby moving most at bedtime, when they're resting quietly. But that may be just because it's easier to notice fetal movement when you're not as distracted by other things.

Earlier in pregnancy, noticeable kicks will be few and far between. You may feel several movements one day and then none the next. Although your baby is moving and kicking regularly, many of their movements just aren't strong enough for you to feel yet. But those reassuring kicks will become stronger and more regular later in the second trimester or early in the third trimester.

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At that point, it's important to get to know what's normal for your baby. There's no set number of movements you should feel each day – every baby is different. But if you perceive that your baby is moving less than usual, or if they haven't moved for a couple of hours, call your provider or go to the hospital right away. (If your provider is unavailable, head to the hospital rather than wait for them to call back.)

Don't worry if your experience is different from your friends'. Every baby has their own pattern of activity, and as long as your baby's usual activity level doesn't decrease, chances are they're doing just fine.

Do I need to keep track of my baby's kicking?

Once you're feeling kicks regularly, pay attention to how often your baby moves, and let your healthcare provider know right away if you ever notice your baby's activity level slow down.

Less movement in the third trimester may signal a problem, and your provider may want you to have a nonstress test, an ultrasound measurement of amniotic fluid, and possibly a biophysical profile to make sure everything is okay. (You may also have these tests as a routine part of your prenatal care if you have a high-risk pregnancy.)

Some providers recommend that in your third trimester, you spend some time each day doing kick counts. There are different ways of doing these, so ask your provider for specific instructions.

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For example, your provider may suggest that you choose a time of day when your baby tends to be active. (Ideally, you'll want to do the counts at roughly the same time each day.) Then sit quietly or lie on your side and time how long it takes to feel 10 distinct movements – kicks, elbow jabs, and whole body movements all count. If you don't feel 10 movements in two hours, call your healthcare provider or head to the hospital.

What if I noticed decreased fetal movement?

If you notice a change in your baby's movements – they're moving less, their movements are weaker, or they suddenly feel excessively active – call your provider or go to the hospital right away.

If your provider is unavailable, don't wait; head to the hospital. If your baby is stressed, it's important to get them help immediately. A change in movements can be an early sign – and sometimes the only sign – that your baby needs help.

Depend on your familiarity with your baby's movements, and trust your instincts if you think something is wrong.


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  • delay until your next prenatal appointment or the next day
  • wait and try to get your baby to move (by drinking cold water or eating something sugary, for example)
  • rely on handheld monitors, a home Doppler, or phone apps to provide reassurance that your baby is doing well – they can be misleading

Learn more:

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BabyCenter's editorial team is committed to providing the most helpful and trustworthy pregnancy and parenting information in the world. When creating and updating content, we rely on credible sources: respected health organizations, professional groups of doctors and other experts, and published studies in peer-reviewed journals. We believe you should always know the source of the information you're seeing. Learn more about our editorial and medical review policies.

ACOG. 2021. Special tests for monitoring fetal well-being. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. a new window [Accessed February 2023]

Bryant J et al. 2022. Fetal movement. StatPearls [Internet]. National Library of Medicine. a new window [Accessed February 2023]

Raynes-Greenow CH, et al. 2013. A cross sectional study of maternal perception of fetal movements and antenatal advice in a general pregnant population, using a qualitative framework. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 13: 32. a new window [Accessed February 2023]

Reddy UM. 2007. Prediction and prevention of recurrent stillbirth. Obstetrics & Gynecology 110(5): 1151-64. a new window [Accessed February 2023]

Karen Miles
Karen Miles is a writer and an expert on pregnancy and parenting who has contributed to BabyCenter for more than 20 years. She's passionate about bringing up-to-date, useful information to parents so they can make good decisions for their families. Her favorite gig of all is being "Mama Karen" to four grown children and "Nana" to nine grandkids.