What to Do When Baby Is Not Moving As Much As Usual

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Whenever you feel like your baby is not moving as much as usual—especially when you're far enough along that you've been feeling regular movement—it is best to call your healthcare provider. There is a good chance that there is nothing wrong with the baby, but it is important that you discuss any changes in your baby's movement with your physician or midwife.

In some cases, decreased movement may be an early warning sign of a condition that could lead to stillbirth, so it is absolutely best to err on the side of caution.

If you are sure your baby's movements have become less frequent than usual, such as if you've been monitoring kick counts, you need to call and discuss this immediately with your physician or midwife.

Monitoring Kick Counts

If you have just noticed a decrease in your baby's movement or you are not sure if your baby is moving less, try counting your baby's kicks over two hours at a time when your baby is usually active. If they usually start kicking after you eat, for example, have a snack and then lie down for a few hours while counting the number of times you feel them kick.

Communicate With Your Provider

If you feel fewer than five kicks in one hour or 10 kicks in 2 hours, call your healthcare provider. Explain that you haven't felt your baby move as much as normal so you did kick counts. If your physician or midwife has already instructed you to monitor your baby's movement with kick counts explain that your baby kicked less than usual today.

Fetal movement can be irregular when you're still in the second trimester, and there's probably nothing wrong—but if you're worried, call your doctor or midwife.

In fact, whenever you're in doubt about whether something is normal or not during pregnancy, call the healthcare provider overseeing your pregnancy and let them make that determination. It's always better to be extra cautious with a perfectly healthy baby than to risk not getting that extra monitoring when you truly need it.

How a Doctor Will Assess Decreased Fetal Movement

If your physician or midwife feel there is a potential cause for concern based on your observations, they will probably ask you to come in for monitoring.

The most common test used with decreased fetal movement occurs is a non-stress test (NST), which gives more detailed information on your baby's heart rate pattern. Your physician or midwife will use this information to help determine if there is any problem with your baby.

If the NST has reassuring results, your physician may not perform additional tests and may send you home to do kick counts and tell you to call if your baby doesn't start moving more.

If the NST reveals any cause for concern, your physician will probably perform more tests right away, like an ultrasound, in order to determine what needs to be done. You may be admitted to the hospital for observation and/or treatment.

It is also important to note that you shouldn't rely on a fetal heart monitor to tell you your baby is okay. Fetal dopplers and other heart monitors can only tell you that your baby's heart is beating. They can't tell you, for example, whether there is a problem with the placenta or if your baby is in other physiological distress. 

A Word From Verywell

While it's important to pay attention to your baby's movements in utero, decreased fetal movement doesn't always mean there's a problem with the pregnancy. Because it's better to err on the side of caution, count your baby's kicks during the time they are usually most active.

If you count less than than five kicks in one hour or 10 kicks in 2 hours, call your healthcare provider with your concerns. They may ask you to come in for prenatal testing to check the health of you and your baby.

1 Source
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  1. Stanford Children’s Health. Nonstress Testing.

Additional Reading
  • Kick Counts. American Pregnancy Association. http://americanpregnancy.org/while-pregnant/kick-counts/.
  • Special Tests for Monitoring Fetal Health. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Special-Tests-for-Monitoring-Fetal-Health.
  • Fretts RC. Decreased Fetal Movement: Diagnosis, Evaluation, and Management. In: UpToDate, Lockwood CJ (Ed), UpToDate, Waltham, MA.

By Krissi Danielsson
Krissi Danielsson, MD is a doctor of family medicine and an advocate for those who have experienced miscarriage.