(Wednesday, 20th Aug, 2014)
Feeling movement during pregnancy
Quickening is the medical term used to describe the first foetal movements felt by the mother during her pregnancy. For a variety of reasons, the detection of foetal movement can often be the first symptom recognised by a woman that she is in fact pregnant.
In a woman having her first baby, foetal movements are not normally felt until between the 18th and 20th week of pregnancy, although the growing baby actually begins to move from as early as about the 9th week when the first muscles have formed along the spinal column. In a subsequent pregnancy foetal movements are usually felt between the 16th and 18th week.
In a first pregnancy it can be quite difficult to recognise foetal movements initially. They have often been likened to a butterfly fluttering or to a feeling of wind moving around inside the tummy. Gradually, the movements become stronger and more pronounced until it is clearly obvious, even to a first-time mother, that her baby is moving.
There is no right or wrong answer to this question. One thing is for certain - the baby will not move continuously. In their earliest stages, foetal movements may be so intermittent that they may not be recognised for what they are at all, and sometimes it is only as the baby becomes stronger and begins to produce thumping or kicking movements that the mother experiences the sensation of her baby moving inside her.
Many women become very concerned if their baby fails to move for long periods, but this is quite normal. While it is not known if babies go to sleep in the womb, they can lie perfectly still for several hours. At around the 24th week, a baby can lie still for up to 24 hours, but when he starts moving again it is often with much more vigour than before!
There is no truth in the popular myth that babies move more at night than during the day, although many women actually believe this to be the case. It probably has a lot to do with the fact that they are more conscious of movements while resting quietly in bed than when they themselves are on the move during the day.
The frequency with which a baby moves in the womb bears no relation to how he will behave after birth. A baby who moves a lot is no more likely to become a very athletic adult than is a baby who moves very little destined to be slow and lethargic.
Similarly, it is not possible to foretell the sex of a baby by the degree of movement within the womb.
The most active foetal movements occur between the 30th and 32nd week of pregnancy. This is because the baby is, by now, very strong but still has plenty of room within the uterus to move around. These movements may include kicking and punching which can be very disconcerting for the mother until she gets used to the sensation, but are rarely, if ever, painful.
After about the 34th week of pregnancy the baby normally stays in the one position because the head is fixed in the brim of the pelvis. The back remains on one side so the vigorous movements of the legs and feet will be felt on the opposite side in the same place until delivery.
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