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Monitoring your unborn baby’s activity

Unborn babies are constantly in a state of activity whilst inside the womb. Such activity is referred to as fetal movements and starts very early, lasting all the way to the time of birth. Normal fetal movements provide reassurance of a healthily developing baby.Being aware of your unborn baby’s activity is an important way of monitoring their well-being.

Most women become aware of their baby’s movements when they reach around 18 to 20 weeks of pregnancy. However in your first pregnancy, you may not become aware of the movements till beyond 20 weeks. If you have been pregnant before, you may feel the movements as early as 16 weeks.The movements are sensed as a kick, flutter or even a roll. What you personally experience as fetal movements may be different from what your friends’ experience. Each baby has its own pattern of activity.

As the baby develops, the pattern of activity keeps changing. Afternoons and evenings are times of peak activity, interrupted by sleep periods of 20 to 40 minutes, but sometimes as long as 90 minutes. The baby will usually not move during the sleep periods. The type of movements may change closer to your due date.

But you should continue to feel movements right up to the time you go into labor, and during the labor itself. There is no specific number of movements regarded as normal, what is important is being aware of your baby’s individual pattern of movements. A reduction or change in your baby’s movements should always trigger some action.

If you notice a reduction in fetal movements, it may be the first sign that your baby is unwell.Some pregnancy complications that interfere with the baby’s growth may make the baby unwell, hence the reduction in fetal movements. Certain medications, alcohol and smoking can also make your baby move less. If you are very active or busy, you may also not be completely aware of your baby’s activity.If this is the case, focusing on your baby for a short while may provide you with reassurance.

A reduction in your baby’s movements should prompt immediate contact with your midwife or obstetrician. Never ignore a reduction in fetal movements, or rely solely on home self-help pregnancy kits. You will normally be advised to make your way to the healthcare facility for a full assessment. What gets done depends on the stage of the pregnancy, but will usually include an antenatal check-up, a trace of the baby’s heart activity and an ultrasound scan.

Majority of women with reduced fetal movements will be reassured that the baby is well. Continued vigilance of the baby’s activity is all that will subsequently be required. In rare cases, some babies will be unwell enough to mandate immediate delivery.

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