How Early Can You Feel Baby Move in Pregnancy?

You'll feel baby flutters between 16 and 25 weeks, but it could be earlier.

How soon will you feel your second baby?

Westend61 / Getty Images

It's an exciting milestone when you first feel your baby move. Second-time parents often wonder how soon they will feel that butterfly feeling—and if it will be sooner than the first time around. Your second pregnancy makes everything a bit different, and that includes when you start to feel your baby move. A first-time expecting parent might not feel their baby move until after 18 weeks to 20 weeks, but on a second (or more) pregnancy, you might notice movement a week or two earlier. 

Your baby is moving from early pregnancy on, though typically the baby is so small that it is difficult to feel until several weeks into the second trimester. Feeling your baby move for the first time in each pregnancy is called quickening. Learn more about how soon you can feel your baby move in a second pregnancy.

How Early Can You Feel Your Baby Move?

The fetus begins to be able to flex its arms and legs between weeks 13 and 16 of pregnancy. Sometime after that point, it becomes possible for you to feel your baby's movements. However, the uterus and nearby intestines don't have their own sensory nerves, so any movements of the baby must be vigorous enough to transmit the sensation to the nerve receptors in your abdominal surface or pelvic area.

Also, the earliest movements that can be felt are easily confused with your own intestinal gas, digestion, or abdominal contractions. They typically feel like gentle fluttering movements. An experienced parent will be looking for these sensations while a first-timer likely doesn't yet know how to distinguish them. However, even in a second pregnancy, people don't usually feel their baby's movements until 16 to 18 weeks at the earliest.

Second-time parents may feel their babies move sooner, but every pregnancy is different. Parents who feel the baby early in the pregnancy tend to report similar characteristics. These people are typically not on their first pregnancy and they are often on thinner side. The movement they feel is generally not consisent in the early days, and when they do feel movement, they tend to be lying down or curled up and quiet.

What Do Fetal Movements Feel Like?

Early fetal movements can be hard to detect since your baby is still so small. You might feel a sensation like fluttering or bubbles popping in your abdomen. Fetal movements won't necessarily feel different in your second pregnancy (though they could), but you may be better at identifying them and distinguishing them from gas or other bodily sensations once you have already experienced them.

If You Don't Feel Your Second Baby Sooner

It can still be normal to not feel your baby move until later in pregnancy, even in your second, third, or fourth time around. You may start feeling the baby about the same time as your last baby or even slightly later.

Some reasons why you may feel baby move later in your second pregnancy than your first include: 

  • Baby's position: If your baby is tucked into one area and kicking into an open space of amniotic fluid, you're not likely to feel that movement as well as a direct kick to the uterine wall.
  • Less fluid: If there is less amniotic fluid, your baby's ability to move around will be restricted.
  • Placenta placement: An anterior placenta may block your baby’s kicks. The placenta has no nerves, so kicks need to be larger to be felt.
  • Your weight: If you weigh more than you did in your first pregnancy, the extra padding can make it more difficult to feel the kicks externally.

Concerns About Baby's Movements

If you think you should feel the baby but don't, it is normal to be worried. Talk to your doctor or midwife about any concerns that you have about feeling your baby's movements.

Your perception of a lack of or decrease in fetal movement are valid indicators for a follow-up visit. Your doctor has other ways to check that your baby is developing as expected, including ultrasound imaging.

Later in pregnancy, a non-stress test may be used to monitor the accelerations of the fetal heart. This test involves lying down for 20 minutes wearing a sensor belt that measures the fetal heart rate.

How to Track Baby's Movement

Once you reach 28 weeks, it is important to keep track of your baby's movement. This process is sometimes fetal kick counting. Most women use the "count-to-10" approach when their baby is usually most active and are able to feel 10 movements within 20 minutes. It is rare to count less than 10 movements in 2 hours.

Count your baby's movements every day so you know what is normal for you. You should call your healthcare provider right away if you count less than 10 movements in 2 hours or notice your baby is moving less the than normal. If your baby is not moving at all, call your healthcare provider immediately. Lack of movement could mean your baby is in distress.

A Word From Verywell

Every pregnancy is different. What you experienced in your first pregnancy will be different than your experience in subsequent pregnancies. Do not hesitate to talk to your practitioner for advice. Your doctor or midwife is accustomed to answering questions from experienced mothers and first-time mothers.

7 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Linde A, Georgsson S, Pettersson K, Holmström S, Norberg E, Rådestad I. Fetal movement in late pregnancy - a content analysis of women's experiences of how their unborn baby moved less or differentlyBMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2016;16(1):127. Published 2016 Jun 1. doi:10.1186/s12884-016-0922-z

  2. U.S. National Library of Medicine, MedlinePlus. Fetal development.

  3. Sival DA, Visser GH, Prechtl HF. Does reduction of amniotic fluid affect fetal movements? Early Hum Dev. 1990 Sep;23(3):233-46. doi:10.1016/0378-3782(90)90014-a PMID:2253581

  4. Sheikh M, Hantoushzadeh S, Shariat M. Maternal perception of decreased fetal movements from maternal and fetal perspectives, a cohort studyBMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2014;14:286. Published 2014 Aug 23. doi:10.1186/1471-2393-14-286

  5. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Pre-natal non-stress test. PMID:30725808

  6. Stanford Children's Health. Fetal movement counting.

  7. National Institutes of Health, Office of Research on Women's Health. Prenatal care and tests.

Additional Reading

By Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH
Robin Elise Weiss, PhD, MPH is a professor, author, childbirth and postpartum educator, certified doula, and lactation counselor.