One of the most exciting things about being pregnant is feeling your little one move in the womb. Almost as exciting is sharing those movements with others: your partner, your family, and your friends. As you eagerly await baby’s first kicks and wiggles, you might wonder when other people will be able to feel them, too.
Very early baby movements that happen before week 16 of pregnancy can often be confused with gas or a rumbling tummy, especially since many women experience plenty of digestive symptoms during the first and early second trimesters. By weeks 16 and 17, though, it is usually possible to feel baby bopping around in your uterus. If you do not feel baby moving by then, not to worry! You will only feel baby’s movement more strongly as he or she gets bigger. Because you will feel baby’s movements internally at first, it is unlikely that other people will be able to feel baby’s acrobatics as early as you do. It might be as early as weeks 19 and 20 or not until the early third trimester—weeks 27 and 28—that someone else can feel baby from the outside.
Various factors about your body and your pregnancy may affect how early and how many baby kicks you and your loved ones can feel. These include:
- Placenta position. The placenta—that amazing organ that grows to nourish baby and then is delivered just after baby is—can attach to just about any part of the uterine wall. Most of the time, the placenta affixes itself near the top of the uterus, toward the middle of your body. It can also attach toward the front of your body, which is called anterior. If your placenta is located anteriorly, it may be more difficult for you and for others to feel baby’s wiggles and kicks because the spongy placenta acts as a shock absorber and so movement is less obvious.
- Maternal body weight and abdominal wall thickness can also affect how easily baby’s kicks are felt. If the pregnant person has a thicker abdominal wall, perhaps due to extra weight around the middle, it may delay how soon baby’s kicks can be felt. Once baby is bigger, however, their kicks will be easier to detect regardless of mom’s body weight.
- Baby’s position can also affect when others will be able to feel him or her moving. If a baby’s feet are toward the middle of mom’s body, for instance, it will be much more difficult to feel movement from kicks. But babies move around a lot, especially when they are little, and by the end of pregnancy, it is even possible to determine which way baby is positioned by gently pressing on your tummy and feeling for baby’s body parts.
- How quick you are. In the early days of movement, you may notice wiggling and kicking for only short periods of time. These are especially hard for a partner or other loved one to catch because they can be more fleeting. Even if you quickly grab your partner’s hand and put it on the spot on your belly where you felt the movement, baby may have shifted position and the opportunity has passed. As baby gets bigger and moves more, others will have more chances to feel baby from the outside.
Maybe you have a baby who immediately stops moving whenever you try to share their wiggling with someone else. Or perhaps your care provider has suggested that you monitor baby’s movements as a way of checking in on baby’s health and comfort in utero. If this experience rings true for you, there are some things you can try to get baby moving:
- Play music: some babies will begin to dance around the womb if you play upbeat music that they like.
- Have partner talk to baby: babies can recognize your partner’s voice by 25 weeks and often they like to hear this familiar sound and wiggle in response.
- Drink something sweet: a small glass of orange juice or milk will rev up your digestive tract and increase your blood sugar, which might get baby kicking.
- Eat a snack: baby can hear your digestive system and feel the increase in your blood sugar, which should encourage them to move.
- Sit or recline and rest: the movements that your body makes as you walk around often lull baby to sleep, so when those movements stop, baby is likely to wake up and get active.