However, when a woman is certain that she is feeling the fetus move, she may describe the feeling as baby flutters.
These soft initial movements are generally a sign that the pregnancy is going well. As the pregnancy progresses, a doctor may instruct a woman to be aware of the movements that the fetus is making. A sudden or gradual reduction in activity can indicate that the fetus is in distress.
Read on to learn more about baby flutters and what to expect from these movements as the pregnancy progresses.
What are baby flutters?
A woman may feel her fetus moving after 20 weeks.
Baby flutters occur when a pregnant woman feels the movement of the fetus.
For the first 18 to 20 weeks, a woman is not likely to feel any fetal movement. During the early stages of pregnancy, the fetus is not big or strong enough to make noticeable movements.
However, these timelines are relative. A woman who is pregnant for the first time may not feel anything until around 25 weeks, whereas a woman who has had previous pregnancies may recognize baby flutters as early as week 13.
Other factors, such as the position of the placenta, having twins or triplets, and the woman’s body type, may affect when she feels the fetus move for the first time.
For example, a woman with an anterior placenta may notice movement later than a woman with a posterior placenta. A woman carrying more than one fetus may feel movement at an earlier stage of the pregnancy. Petite women may also notice movement sooner.
How do they feel?
The feeling of baby flutters can vary among women. Some common descriptions include:
- feeling like gas pains but without passing any gas
- feeling as though there are butterflies in the stomach
- a tickling sensation on the inside
- a popping or bubbling sensation
- feeling pokes from the inside
The exact location of the flutters will depend on where the fetus is in the womb. They may be slightly higher or slightly lower in different women. Sometimes, a woman will feel flutters in the center or off to one side.
Flutters typically get stronger over time. Eventually, other people who touch the woman’s stomach will be able to feel the movements.
Timeline and what to expect
For the first several weeks of pregnancy, a woman is not likely to feel any movement from the fetus. However, this does not mean that the fetus is not moving, just that they are too small for their movements to be noticeable.
In the early weeks, the fetus is moving around in a small sac of embryonic fluid. When the first ultrasound takes place, typically at about 10 weeks, the movement is visible but not yet easy to feel.
In the second trimester, a woman will start to notice baby flutters.
The exact time is impossible to predict as it is dependent on several factors, but it will generally occur between 18 and 20 weeks. Some women may find that it happens earlier than this, while others may not feel any movement until a later stage.
If a woman feels rhythmic movements that last for a few minutes at a time, the baby may have the hiccups. These are common and not a cause for concern.
Baby flutters will gradually become more intense until the woman can no longer describe them as flutters. Later in pregnancy, a woman is more likely to find her developing fetus’s movements strong and uncomfortable.
As the fetus starts to run out of space, the feeling of the movements will begin to change. It is not uncommon to identify body parts pushing against the skin or feel more defined, sharp kicks.
A larger baby’s movements can push up against the woman’s organs, sometimes temporarily making it hard to breathe.
When to speak to a doctor
A doctor may recommend counting kicks to help monitor the health of the fetus.
Baby flutters and movement are good indicators of the developing baby’s health and growth.
In the early weeks of development, a woman will not feel movements at all, but a doctor will see movements when they examine the fetus during routine ultrasounds.
When a woman first feels movements, she should let her doctor know at the next checkup. The first movements are often inconsistent and may come and go.
At 28 weeks, a doctor will typically talk to the woman about counting kicks. By this point in the pregnancy, the movements are usually becoming more consistent.
To do a kick count, a woman should find a similar time each day to relax and focus on the fetus’s movements. Kicks and movements are harder to track while the pregnant woman is active.
A fetus goes through periods of sleeping and being active, just like people. Times when it may be easier to feel movements include:
- after meals
- between the hours of 9:00 p.m. and 1:00 a.m.
- after drinking a cold beverage
Being aware of how often the fetus kicks or moves can help a woman sense any change. If the fetus’s typical movements change, this could indicate a problem, so a pregnant woman should speak to a doctor immediately.
Baby flutters are a good sign of the health and vitality of the growing fetus. Baby flutters may start very early, or they may not be noticeable until well after week 20.
Once the fetus’s movements become regular and stronger, they can help a woman monitor the health of the developing baby.
If a pregnant woman has concerns about the fetus’s movements at any time, she should call her doctor or go directly to a medical center for examination.