If you're an expectant parent today, chances are you've heard of kick counts. But what's this term all about, and why is it important for a healthy baby?
Kick counting is the act of counting your baby's kicks and movements within a set amount of time. The practice helps you pay attention to your baby's movements at roughly the same time each day, so you can notice if anything changes. Learning your child's normal kicks, rolls, pops, and swishes can assist you in identifying any problems with your pregnancy -- it can even help prevent stillbirths.
The technique was once only recommended for high-risk pregnancies, but it's now encouraged for all expectant moms, beginning around 28 weeks. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists itself recommends kick counting and suggests mothers talk with their own health care providers about when to start.
The Ins and Outs of Kick Counting
Just as you wouldn't forget your prenatal vitamins, counting your baby's kicks should become second nature to you during your third trimester. You should begin doing kick counts when you can feel movement consistently, often around 25 weeks for a first-time mom or 18 weeks if you've had children before. You'll soon learn the pattern of when your baby is most active, often in the evening or at night.
Stick with the same time each day. Settle down, lying on your left side or with your feet up. Count each of your baby's movements until you get to 10 -- this should happen within one to two hours but may happen much sooner, often within about 30 minutes. You can use a piece of paper and make a mark for each movement, try an app, or just make mental notes. If you don't count 10 movements in two hours, wait awhile and try again. Lots of babies are more active after the mother drinks something very cold, eats a meal or something sweet, or exercises.
The Benefits of Kick Counting
Many babies are especially active in the nighttime hours, especially from 9:00 pm to 1:00 am, so this might be a great time to set aside for kick counts. Some babies move a lot, while others might not move as much. The most important thing to know is what's normal for your baby, and kick counting on a regular basis will help you learn this. It can also help you tune in to your baby and bond before birth.
Once you become familiar with your baby's patterns, you'll easily notice if something changes with your baby's activity. If your child is much less active than normal (especially after two hours), you'll know to consult your health care provider and be seen as soon as possible.