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Third Trimester Fetal Movement: What's Normal, and What's Cause for Concern?

Third Trimester Fetal Movement: What's Normal, and What's Cause for Concern?

As your baby grows throughout the third trimester, so does your awareness of your baby's movements. Those once-soft flutters in the second trimester have now been replaced by larger movements. 

Many expectant women find fetal activity during this period to be a reassuring sign of their growing baby's health δΈ€ even if it does mean a kick or two in the bladder.

But understanding what is normal fetal movement (and what’s not) is important for expectant mothers. Continue reading as our team of doctors and certified nurse midwives at Westover Hills Women’s Health share what's normal and what’s cause for concern when it comes to your baby’s movements.

What is normal fetal activity during the third trimester?

During your third trimester, fetal movements tend to be more pronounced as your baby grows and has less room to move around. Ten kicks (or rolls or other movements) per hour is the gold standard for counting kicks.

You may also find that it’s normal for your baby to be more active during certain times of the day, especially after you've eaten or when you’re resting.

How to count your baby’s movements

The premise behind counting kicks is to see how long it takes your baby to move 10 times. Movements include kicks, rolls, punches, turns, and flutters. In most cases, it takes one hour, but it can take as many as two. 

Don’t worry if you don't feel exactly 10 movements in an hour, as this can vary, and it may take a bit longer. This is especially true if your baby previously had a very active hour before sleeping. It’s also possible that you were busy and moving around and didn’t feel your baby’s more subtle movements. 

We encourage most women to start counting kicks around the 28-week mark. To count your baby’s movements, you should:

If you reach two hours without many kicks, you might consider trying to wake up your baby a bit before monitoring for movements. Tips to wake up your baby include drinking juice, walking around a bit, turning on music, lying down on your left side, or eating a meal.

After a few days, you start to get a sense of your baby’s normal activity patterns.

When to worry about your baby’s movements

Your baby needs to sleep and rest, just as you do. Don’t be alarmed if your baby is resting. Even so, you should know the warning signs of trouble so you can reach out to us if needed.

Let us know if:

Your baby’s movements suddenly change

If you notice a significant reduction in fetal movement, experience no movement for an extended period, or observe a sudden increase in vigorous activity, let us know. These changes could be indicative of potential complications that require timely evaluation.

You’ve tried to wake up your baby but aren’t reaching 10 movements

If you’ve tried to wake up your baby and still aren’t feeling enough movements, let us know. It can take up to two hours to reach 10 movements, but if you’re past the 2-3 hour mark, don’t brush it off.

You notice other symptoms in addition to decreased movement

Decreased movements aren’t immediately a cause for concern. But if you notice decreased movements in addition to other symptoms, it could be cause for concern. Concerning symptoms include premature contractions, bleeding, or severe pain. 

How are changes in fetal movements assessed?

If concerns arise about fetal movement, we may recommend nonstress tests or biophysical profiles (BPP). Nonstress tests monitor your baby's heart rate in response to movement, while BPPs assess various aspects of your baby’s well-being, including movement, amniotic fluid levels, and breathing. 

Together these tests help us identify any issues that require treatment. Depending on the reason behind your baby’s changes in movements, the solution may be to increase your water intake, induction, or even a C-section.

If you’re concerned about your baby, it’s better to err on the side of caution and call one of our San Antonio, Texas, offices even if it’s after hours.  For less urgent matters, schedule an appointment via our online tool.

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