Debunking Myths About Baby’s Movement in Pregnancy

A pregnant woman rests her hands on her belly

In college, one of my favorite tv shows to watch was “MythBusters.”  I have always craved facts and have been generally curious about how things work. After watching an episode, I cataloged topics and facts into my brain. Never knowing when I’d need to access the information about random topics such as whether a snowman would melt faster with clothes on or off, but surely I would at some point in my life and I’d be prepared! 

When I was pregnant with my first child the unsolicited advice was free flowing. At the time, I welcomed it. Thinking about becoming a parent was hard for me to wrap my head around. I had never done this before and when people who had parented gave me tips, I mentally cataloged them and used the tips readily as I proceeded through pregnancy and into early parenthood as a first time mom, much like I had done with those facts I had learned on MythBusters.

I took that advice from seasoned parents and medical professionals and held it close, knowing each of them knew more than me on the topics of growing and raising a child. I was a novice. It wasn’t until my second pregnancy that I learned I had been using myths to help keep my baby safe inside of me and the outcome was tragic. 

This is when the “MythBusters” I had so eagerly used as a procrastination method in college became my reality. It wasn’t until my daughter was stillborn at term did I learn the cold hard truth of the importance of kick counting in the third trimester. I learned that oftentimes the first and sometimes only indicator that a baby is in distress is a change in their movement patterns. 

Around 37 weeks, I noticed my daughter’s movements changing, becoming fewer and far between. I had been following the myth that babies slow down as they get ready to deliver. After the fact I learned this was false.

Babies don’t run out of room at the end of pregnancy. The types of movements may change (more jabs, fewer rolls), but babies should move up to and even during labor. If an expectant parent is monitoring their baby’s movements at the same time each day, it should take about the same amount of time to feel 10 movements.

Before 37 weeks my daughter was always really active, so I didn’t track movements, nor did I know how to. I didn’t think there was a need to track her movements because she was VERY active. I later learned that this was false.

Even active babies can experience distress, sometimes quickly and without other warning signs. Tracking your baby’s movement every day takes the guesswork out of knowing if a normally active baby has slowed down. Count the Kicks gives you real data to show your healthcare provider if you have a concern, thus lowering your anxiety about their movement patterns. 

Although I was carrying extra amniotic fluid and had something called “polyhydramnios,” I was never considered high-risk, because of this I believed that I didn’t need to pay attention to her movements. I later learned that this was false.

ALL expectant parents should be educated on Count the Kicks and get to know what’s normal for their baby. Knowledge is power and knowledge can prevent preventable stillbirths in their tracks. 

When I noticed my daughter’s movements change, I inquired about counting kicks and how to go about tracking.  I was told “my baby should get 10 kicks in 2 hours.” I later learned that was false.

Every baby is different, and the recommendation to expect 10 kicks in 2 hours is outdated. Current research indicates expectant people should work to understand the normal amount of time it takes their baby to get to 10 movements each day. 

The afternoon that my daughter was (still)born, I noticed that I hadn’t felt her movements in some time. Before calling the hospital, I did what I had been educated to do- I ate something sugary, drank a cold glass of water and laid down for 30 minutes. It wasn’t until AFTER I did those tricks and she still wasn’t moving did we call the doctor, leave a message, wait for a call back, and travel to the hospital only to find out that our daughter didn’t have a heartbeat and had traces of brain activity.  I was rushed into an emergency C-section to later find out that her heartbeat never returned and had likely stopped minutes before arriving at the hospital. 

I later learned that research has moved away from the idea that sugary drinks and the like are a good way to get a baby to move. Kick counts are best monitored WITHOUT interventions like juice, candy, and drinking ice water. If the baby isn’t moving like normal, parents should speak up to their provider right away. 

I spent 60 minutes trying to get my daughter to move before arriving at the hospital. Had I just gone straight to Labor & Delivery, she may be here today. If you notice a change in movements, time is of the essence. Head straight to the hospital to get monitored. You will never regret it. 

Lastly, another common myth is the use of a fetal doppler to monitor your baby’s well-being. A change of the baby’s heartbeat is one of the last things that occurs when a baby is in distress. A change in a baby’s movement may indicate potential problems before actual changes in the heart rate are detected. Expectant parents should only use a Doppler device under the guidance of a healthcare provider.

Don’t follow the myths I, and thousands of other parents whose baby(ies) are stillborn each year have. Consider this the “MythBuster” episode on the importance of accurately monitoring your baby’s movements in-utero.

Research it more at Count the Kicks. If you or your partner is pregnant and in the third trimester, download the free app and start tracking today. 

It’s never too early to advocate for your baby. 

About the Author

Amanda Duffy, a Count the Kicks Ambassador in Minnesota.

Amanda Duffy is a Count the Kicks Ambassador in Minnesota. She lives in the Minneapolis/St.Paul area with her husband Chris and three living children: Rogen, Rhett and Maeda. She advocates for kick counting education in honor of her second-born, Reese, who was stillborn in 2014 in the 39th week of pregnancy.