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When Can Your Partner Feel Your Baby Move? A Parent's Guide

When your partner should feel these tiny kicks and flutters, and why it's important to monitor fetal movement carefully until your due date arrives.

When Can Your Partner Feel Your Baby Move? A Parent's Guide

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While the discovery of pregnancy itself is a momentous occasion, one of the most magical moments during pregnancy is feeling your baby move for the first time.

But when exactly can your partner feel these tiny kicks and flutters? Ahead, we'll explore when you can expect your partner to feel your baby move, what early fetal movements feel like, and how to monitor fetal movement carefully until your due date arrives.

When Can You Feel Baby Move?

A 2015 article from UT Southwestern Medical Center, a prestigious public academic health science center in Dallas, Texas, reveals that babies can start moving as early as 14 weeks into the pregnancy. However, these initial movements are often too subtle for the expectant mother to detect.

According to Melissa Dean, a midwife and founder of Casa Natal Birth and Wellness Center, the earliest you can feel baby move is between 15 and 20 weeks. "Fetal movements can be felt between 15-20 weeks," she explains. "This sensation, called quickening, starts sporadically and becomes more frequent as the weeks go by."

What Determines the Timing of Your Baby's Kicks?

Several factors can determine the timing of when you'll first feel your baby's kicks, such as whether it's your first pregnancy and the position of the placenta.

Dean notes, "First-time moms may feel movements later than experienced moms. Placenta location also matters — an anterior placenta (attached to the front of the uterus) can cushion movements until around 20 weeks when the baby grows bigger and movements become stronger."

However, Dean emphasizes that every pregnancy is a unique experience, and each baby will establish their own schedule for kicking and movement.

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"All babies will move and be active, but some are just more active than others," she continues. "Each pregnancy will also have its distinct placenta implantation site, impacting when and how much movement you feel. Some babies will change positions a lot; some will remain in a similar position for much of the pregnancy."

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When Can Your Partner Feel the Baby Move?

As your pregnancy progresses towards the 24-week mark, you can expect to notice the baby's movements becoming more frequent and pronounced throughout the day. Additionally, this is often when your partner can experience the thrill of feeling the baby's movements for the first time.

Dean explains, "Most partners can sense regular movements from the outside by 24 weeks, especially if the placenta is positioned towards the back of your uterus (posterior). However, if the baby is head-up, your partner might not feel the movements until later in the pregnancy when the baby shifts into a head-down position."

What Do Early Fetal Movements Feel Like?

In the early stages of pregnancy, initial fetal movements are incredibly gentle and can be likened to delicate flutters. Dean explains, "These early pregnancy flutters are as delicate as the flutter of a butterfly's wings." She adds, "You'll know for certain it's your baby when you feel these movements repeatedly, and their strength gradually increases."

As the pregnancy progresses, fetal movements become more pronounced and distinct. Dean clarifies that between 24 and 28 weeks, the movements tend to be the strongest. However, as the pregnancy advances, the baby occupies more space within the abdominal cavity and adds extra weight, potentially reducing the frequency and strength of the movements due to the limited space available.

The Importance of Monitoring Fetal Movement

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Fetal movement is an important marker of fetal wellbeing, so to monitor them carefully, Dean advises waiting till after weeks 28 to 32 to start counting kicks.

"Kick counts are noted (or counted) in the third trimester to help mothers be aware of fetal wellbeing," she explains. "I encourage moms to tune in to their baby's movements as soon as they feel them regularly. Pay attention to their patterns so you can be aware if they change in the third trimester."

To successfully monitor your baby's movement, Dean recommends doing kick counts during a time when your baby is typically active (try to do this at the same time of day).

"Find a comfortable place and position (sitting or lying down)," she suggests. "Note movements (rolls, kicks, swishing, or flutters), record the time the first movement is felt and track how long it takes to feel ten movements. Make a note of the time of the tenth movement. Ideally, you will want to feel ten movements within 2 hours, but most women feel it much sooner than that."

pregnant couple standing together holding the woman's stomach iStock

Tips for Encouraging Fetal Movement

If you notice a decrease in your baby's movements during the third trimester, try lying down, drinking a large glass of cold water or juice, or having a snack.

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As Dean explains, "The calories often stimulate the baby to move. However, if you don't feel at least ten movements within two hours, it's essential to contact your healthcare provider. Although it may not be a cause for concern, your doctor may recommend monitoring your baby's wellbeing."

When to Contact Your Healthcare Provider

While it's normal for babies to have periods of rest and inactivity due to their rapid growth and development, paying attention to their regular movement patterns is crucial.

If you notice that you start feeling your baby move less throughout the day, Dean says it's imperative to seek medical attention promptly.

"If you haven't experienced the expected ten movements within a two-hour window, reach out to your healthcare provider right away," Dean advises. "They may recommend scheduling an appointment to monitor your baby's condition and ensure everything is progressing as it should."

pregnant couple standing together holding the woman's stomach iStock

FAQs

When do you feel fetal movement most? 

"Most mothers feel the greatest amount of movement after meals," Dean tells Today's Parent. "Especially breakfast, in the evening, after dinner, and resting.

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Dean further explains that even during the day, when the mother is active and moving about, her movements have a soothing effect, gently rocking the baby and lulling them to sleep. "However, babies typically wake up when given calories and stop moving," she adds.

Do fetal kicks for new moms feel different than second-time moms?

According to Dr. Lauren Demosthenes, an experienced OBGYN and senior medical director at Babyscripts, second-time moms may notice differences in their baby's movements during their second pregnancy compared to their first. She highlights, however, that this can be highly variable, as the placenta's location can influence the perceived movements.

"It's important to remember that some babies are inherently more active than others," Dr. Demosthenes explains to Today's Parent.

Can activities like talking, singing, or applying gentle pressure to the belly stimulate fetal movement?

Dr. Demosthenes says reduced fetal movement can sometimes be attributed to the baby's sleep cycles. When babies are in a resting state, their movements naturally decrease.

She further elaborates, "While consuming a sugary beverage or applying gentle pressure may potentially alter the movement pattern, these interventions lack substantial research to support their efficacy."

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Experts: 

  • Melissa Dean, midwife and the founder of Casa Natal Birth and Wellness Center, located in Los Gatos, California
  • Dr. Lauren Demosthenes, an OBGYN and Senior Medical Director with Babyscripts

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Courtney Leiva has over 11 years of experience producing content for numerous digital mediums, including features, breaking news stories, e-commerce buying guides, trends, and evergreen pieces. Her articles have been featured in HuffPost, Buzzfeed, PEOPLE, and more.

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