How Kick Counts Can Help You Keep Tabs on Your Baby’s Well-Being

By Stacey Feintuch
Reviewed by Alyssa Quimby, M.D.
October 02, 2023

Like many pregnant people, you may be eager to feel your baby’s first kick inside your belly. It’s not only exciting but also reassuring to know that your baby is healthy. As the baby's kicks get stronger and happen more often, keeping tabs on those movements can help reassure you that your baby is growing as expected and continuing to thrive.

Some healthcare providers ask their pregnant patients to keep a kick count, during which you count and log the number of kicks and movements the baby makes during a prescribed period of time.

Why You Should Do Kick Counts

Generally, kick counts are one of several strategies doctors and pregnant people use to assess fetal health and monitor the baby’s well‑being, says G. Thomas Ruiz, M.D., a board-certified ob-gyn at Memorial Care in Fountain Valley, California. “It’s useful especially in the third trimester,” he says.

A kick count can be very reassuring or it can alert you to a problem, says Ruiz, who encourages “anyone in [their] third trimester—not just high-risk [people]” to do kick counts so they’re spending at least an hour a day focused on their baby’s movements and can potentially identify some issues before they become life-threatening.

How to Do a Kick Count

You don’t need any special equipment to do a kick count; it can be done right at home.

Starting at 28 weeks of pregnancy, find a comfortable position and place your hands on your belly, advises Ruiz. As an alternative, you could also lie on your left side, which is more comfortable for some pregnant people and has the bonus of promoting circulation, which can lead, in turn, to a more active baby.

Typically, babies are most active after you’ve eaten a meal or drunk something cold. As your blood sugar is falling around your bedtime—usually 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.—your baby may also be more active. “Drinking something cold or eating something wakes up the bowels and kind of annoys the baby,” Ruiz says. “It gives them a jolt of energy.”

To assess kick count, time how long it takes you to feel 10 kicks (or flutters, rolls, or swishes). Ruiz advises his patients that they want to feel at least 10 movements within a two-hour period. If they don’t, call your doctor or midwife. Everything may be perfectly fine, but it’s worth checking out anyway. Ruiz adds that once you hit 36 weeks, your baby has less room to move and may have slower movements.

Note that kick counts aren’t an exact science. Not all doctors ask their patients to assess movement the same way or agree about the “right” number of movements per two-hour time period. “There is no medical consensus for the diagnosis of decreased fetal movement,” says Hector O. Chapa, M.D., a board-certified ob-gyn at Texas A&M College of Medicine, in College Station, Texas. He encourages his patients to “simply stay aware of the baby’s activities in the womb, and if there is any reduction in what is normal for them, then that’s the time to seek an evaluation.”

When in Doubt, Call

Whether you’re doing an official kick count or just notice that something seems different with your baby’s movements, the action you should take is the same: “Pregnant [people] should contact their healthcare provider immediately if they perceive a drop in the usual fetal movement,” Chapa says. It’s good practice to be aware of fetal movement so you can easily identify any changes from the norm.

“Pattern is a real thing,” Ruiz says. “[Kick counts are a good] way to reassure Mom that everything is okay.”

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