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From Flutters to Kicks: Your Baby’s Movement in the Third Trimester

The joy of feeling your baby’s movements in the third trimester is truly special. It’s like getting a backstage pass to their lively world inside your belly. Their kicks, rolls and stretches are an opportunity to bond with your baby and check their well-being.

Kick counting, or fetal movement counting, can track your baby’s movements in late pregnancy. Many experts recommend you do it daily during your third trimester. 

Read on as we share everything you need to know about fetal movement in the third trimester and what to expect as you approach your baby’s birth.

Understanding your baby’s kicks

Most mothers start to feel their baby move when they are at around 20 weeks pregnant, but it could happen as early as 16 weeks. Those little movements are often referred to as quickening.

“Fetal movements can feel different in different people and vary from pregnancy to pregnancy,” said David Soll, MD, an OBGYN with Banner Health. “Movements may feel like flutters (like butterflies in the stomach) at first and will grow stronger into kicks during your third trimester.”

As your baby’s movement happens more often and becomes stronger, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Different types of movements: Third trimester movements can range from gentle kicks and nudges to more noticeable rolls and stretches. You may even feel your baby hiccup from time to time, which can be surprising and adorable. Pay attention to the different movements and patterns of movement you feel.
  • Patterns and routines: As your due date approaches, you may notice patterns in your baby’s movements. Some babies are more active at certain times of the day, while others have their own unique patterns. Take note of these patterns. 
  • Sleepy time: While it may seem like your baby is in constant motion, it’s important to remember that they also need their beauty rest. “As the pregnancy progresses, the baby will have longer sleep cycles, so you may not feel them moving as much during the day,” Dr. Soll said. Your baby may be up when you’re trying to catch some winks and sleepy when you’re active. “Babies generally are more active at night, possibly because pregnant people can pay more attention to movements with rest,” Dr. Soll said.
  • Tight space: As your due date draws near and your baby continues to grow, you may notice a slight decrease in the intensity of their movements. This is because your baby runs out of room in their tiny temporary home (your womb). Instead of sharp kicks and rolls, you might feel more nudges and stretches as your baby navigates the tight space. 

How to monitor your baby’s movement

As a parent-to-be, it’s natural to want to closely monitor your baby’s movements. While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, you should generally check your baby’s movements at least once per day when they are the most active. 

“A good rule of thumb is 10 or more distinctive movements in two hours,” Dr. Soll said. 

Counting kicks is easy, but here are some tips to help you get started:

  • Choose a time of day when your baby is active: Try to check about the same time every day so you can more easily track your baby’s patterns. “Sit down or lie down on your side and rest to focus on the movements,” Dr. Soll said.
  • Count each kick until you get to 10: Set a timer or watch the clock as you count each kick. You can tally up the number of marks you made and keep them in a journal or a kick-counting phone app. 
  • Encourage your baby: If your baby isn’t moving as much as you anticipated within the first hour, here are some things you can do to try to get your little one to move:
    • Drink juice or cold water
    • Eat a meal
    • Take a walk
    • Gently push on your belly

When should I worry about low kick counts? 

Try not to panic if your baby hasn’t moved for a couple of hours. Like you, your baby has periods of sleep and activity. 

If you don’t feel movements during the day, it could be that you’ve been busy focusing on work or taking care of your family and are less likely to notice their movement. That’s why it’s important to find some time to be still so you can focus on counting.

Try doing another round if you don’t feel 10 kicks in a two-hour period. If you still don’t feel the number of kicks you expected, let your health care provider know. 

“Contact your provider if you notice any significant changes in your baby’s activity,” Dr. Soll said. “They can check the fetal heart rate or perform an ultrasound to ensure everything is OK.”


As you navigate the final stretch of pregnancy, remember that feeling your baby’s movement is a beautiful and natural part of the journey. Embrace the excitement and wonder of this special time, and don’t hesitate to reach out to your health care provider or a Banner Health specialist if you have any questions or concerns.

Soon, you’ll be holding your precious little one in your arms, and all those flutters and kicks will be memories to cherish forever.

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