A mother-to-be typically experiences the exciting feeling of her baby's first movements sometime during the second trimester. These movements, known as "quickening," can feel like fluttering, gas, popcorn popping or even hunger pains. However you experience them, they bring a heightened realization that your tiny baby is a distinct personality. Because of individual differences, women first notice these sensations during different weeks.
The Timing of First Sensations
First-time mothers typically feel their baby's first movements at 18 to 20 weeks, but some moms don't notice them until later. The start of your last period counts as week one of gestation, even though you're not yet pregnant at this point. In pregnancies after your first, you recognize these movements, so you probably notice them sooner. Experienced moms sometimes feel movement between 13 and 16 weeks, and thinner moms usually feel them before heavier ones.
Baby's Earliest Movements
You baby actually starts moving at approximately eight weeks, but the movements are too tiny to feel. After all, at this stage, your baby is about one-half inch in length, according to the Mayo Clinic. At about nine weeks, the baby moves her arms and legs and may even start to have hiccups, which she continues to experience periodically throughout the pregnancy. To you, your baby's hiccups feel like little twitches and are a normal part of your baby's development. They're often brought on by amniotic fluid moving in and out of the baby's lungs and causing contractions of the diaphragm. By 10 weeks, your baby can move her head, and at 14 weeks she can open and close her eyes.
How Much Movement Is Normal?
When you first notice your baby moving, the sensations of movement are irregular and spaced out. Although your baby is moving a lot, you don't notice most of it. From about 20 weeks on, you get so many kicks that you may feel like a punching bag. In late pregnancy, your baby's living space gets tighter, but he's not less active, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics' Baby Center website. Those kicks might even feel stronger. Near the end of pregnancy, you might feel your baby dropping lower in the pelvis, typically in the head-down position for delivery.
Counting Kicks and Movements
Some doctors recommend that pregnant women count their baby's movements every day starting at 28 weeks, according to the American Pregnancy website. Evening is a good time to count because babies tend to be awake and active. You can encourage your baby to move by having a meal or cold drink or engaging in physical activity. Get into a comfortable position, and observe how long it takes to feel 10 movements of any type. Assuming your baby is awake, you should feel this number within two hours, but it often takes only 20 minutes.
When to Get Help
Contact your doctor if you notice a change in your baby's usual pattern of activity, recommends the Women's Health website of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The kick counts help you track the movements so you know what is normal for your baby. Also call your doctor if you are unable to count 10 kicks or movements within two hours. If you notice a complete lack of movement, you should call your physician immediately.