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How to better understand your baby's movements in pregnancy

Natural parenting expert Angela Spencer tells Lisa Salmon why keeping track of your child's routine in the womb can help detect any potential problems

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Vital clues: changes in the way your baby moves can point to potential problems

Vital clues: changes in the way your baby moves can point to potential problems

Vital clues: changes in the way your baby moves can point to potential problems

It's reassuring for every pregnant woman to feel her baby move, and any perceived lack of movement can leave a mother-to-be fearing the worst.

But monitoring baby while they're in the womb is no longer about counting kicks every day. New NHS guidelines state that the best way for mums to monitor baby is to understand its pattern of movement and rest, saying: "There's no set number of movements you should feel each day - every baby is different. You do not need to count the number of kicks or movements. The important thing is to get to know your baby's usual movements from day to day."

To help get this important message across, natural parenting expert Angela Spencer is running the Routine in the Womb campaign throughout June to encourage pregnant women to take time to monitor their baby's movements.

"Pregnancy should be a positive experience that happens naturally, but it isn't," she says.

"The rising trends of infertility, miscarriage and baby loss are so worrying that when women do fall pregnant, their journey is quite often one fraught with worry.

"Add in the current lockdown, where contact with midwives is minimal and information is confusing, and it's no wonder that many mums-to-be now don't know how or why they need to monitor their baby's movements."

The Routine in the Womb initiative is urging expectant mums to put their feet up and spend some time every day focusing on their baby's movements, as recognising the unique routine and being able to identify changes can help detect any potential problems.

"It's not just reduced movement that mums-to-be should look out for, but sudden excessive movement too because this could mean the baby is in distress," warns Spencer.

Here, she outlines what expectant mothers need to know about their baby's routine in the womb...

When to start monitoring baby's movements

In a first pregnancy, you should be able to feel movements anywhere between 17 and 20 weeks (and occasionally later, especially if you have a front- lying placenta). These first movements can often feel like butterflies in your belly. For second or subsequent pregnancies, it can happen even earlier.

How to monitor baby's movements

Once you've felt those movements for a few weeks, you'll begin to notice a rhythm.

By around 24 weeks, they'll begin to form a discernible pattern of movement and rest, and this can be influenced by you and your daily routine.

If you're really active, your baby might be active at the same time, or they could be rocked to sleep by your movements.

If you put your feet up, baby might take the opportunity to snooze too, or they might choose to get their wriggle on because you've finally stopped.

Getting to know how your baby reacts to your routine, what you do and eat helps you to understand baby's routine.

Why do your baby's movements matter?

They can help reassure you that everything is progressing positively and that you can stop worrying. Monitoring baby's movements helps you connect with your baby and interact with them. It's important because this is where their development begins, so even in the womb, you can be nurturing their future growth and even education.

Monitoring means you can also notice if there's a change, and this is important because although the womb protects your baby from most things, the stress hormone cortisol can still put your pregnancy and unborn baby's wellbeing at risk. A changes to your baby's routine is one sign that something is wrong.

What to look for in baby's movements

Small changes are normal, and as your pregnancy reaches the last weeks and room's tight in there, movement patterns will change slowly. What you must look out for are big, sudden changes such as...

  • Reduced movement: this is when baby's pattern of movements suddenly reduce when you know that they would usually be active. You can try doing things that you know would normally wake baby up, such as going out for a walk.
  • No movement at all: sometimes movements can become such an ingrained part of our own routine that we don't notice it when something changes. If you notice no movement at all from your baby, this could be a cause for concern.
  • Excessive movement: this is something few mums seem to know about. If your baby suddenly has excessive movements and nothing seems to stop it, it can be a sign of distress.

If you notice any of the above, call your midwifery team immediately for help and advice.

Belfast Telegraph