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Kick Counts: Keeping Track of Fetal Condition

Pregnant women, the world over, look forward to the day when they feel the baby move for the first time. This normally occurs somewhere between 18 and 25 weeks of pregnancy. First time mothers may not be certain that what they feel is the baby moving until nearer the 25th week, while mothers in the second or later pregnancy may be certain sooner, nearer the 18th week. Experience is one factor that may make sorting out the baby’s movement from her own digestive discomfort associated with the pregnancy easier the second time around.

Once it is established that the mother is feeling the baby’s movements, keeping track of these movements through kick counts can be a very useful tool to reassure the mother that the baby is doing well. Kick counts are strongly recommended by physicians for mothers who are considered high risk pregnancies after the 28th week. All women can benefit from performing kick counts, however, as they provide a special time to bond with the growing baby.

Maximizing each Minute
After the mother has felt the baby moving, it is usually only a couple of days later that she has some idea when the baby sleeps and when he/she is active. Working out a routine that includes spending some quiet time talking with the baby, and just being aware of the life inside her can be a perfect opportunity to bond with her baby. Most mothers find that their babies are active right after meals or sweet snacks and late at night, generally from 9pm to 1 am.

Taking the time to do kick counts encourages women to get some of rest their bodies need so badly and are often deprived of. There are a couple of different positions used by mothers for doing kick counts. Some prefer to sit upright in a chair that has good back support and folding their arms over their belly. Others like to lie on their left side to monitor the baby. The lying position generally provides for better circulation and may encourage more activity from the baby.

How to Count the Baby’s Moves
While this is called kick counts, what the mother is actually looking for is the number of times the baby moves in a specified time period. Most physicians concur that as long as the baby moves at least ten times in any two hour period that the baby is normally active, everything is okay. Most mothers will find that they reach ten movements in far less than two hours.

The goal of performing kick counts is to establish a pattern over several days by timing how long it takes to feel ten movements by the baby. It would be unreasonable to expect the child to move at such regular intervals as to make all of the times the same, but a pattern typically emerges that allows the mother to have some idea if everything is normal. Large deviations from the pattern can be an indicator that something is wrong and the doctor should be notified.

When should the doctor be called?
When performing kick counts, a log should be kept that allows a woman to see what time she feels the first movement and what time she feels the tenth movement. If this interval is longer than two hours, it may not indicate a problem.

However, if during the next time period when the baby is normally active, she does not feel ten movements in less than two hours, she should call her physician or midwife immediately. This could be a sign that the baby is in distress, and only monitoring by a healthcare professional can rule out trouble.

Any significant variation from the pattern that is established over a three or four day period is reason enough to notify a healthcare professional. If a mother keeps her log of kick counts and sees that she has felt ten movements from the baby in a time range of 30 to 45 minutes for the last 4 days and it suddenly takes an hour and a half to feel 10 movements, she should contact her healthcare provider immediately.

This is a significant change from the pattern even though she is still within the two hour window. If it takes more than two hours after having established a shorter pattern, as above, this could be a sign of serious trouble and requires immediate medical care.

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