One of the most memorable moments of your pregnancy journey will likely be feeling your little one’s first tiny flutterings. This moment—the very first time you feel your baby move—is called quickening. Know that babies move before you can detect any activity; quickening simply refers to the first time you feel the movement. So, when can you feel your baby move, and what does baby movement feel like? Read on to learn about this exciting pregnancy milestone and what to anticipate after that first thrilling sensation!
What Is Quickening in Pregnancy?
Quickening has a fairly straightforward definition: It’s the first time you feel your baby move. But it’s important to know that fetal movement is much more complex, and that your little one is certainly moving around more than you know! Quickening is when you first feel the movement, not the first time it occurs.
Your baby may start moving around in the womb at about 12 weeks, but you probably won’t be aware of any activity at this early stage. Fetal movement encompasses all types of action in the womb, including what your baby is doing before you can feel them move.
How Early Can You Feel Your Baby Move?
A common question about quickening in pregnancy is “When do you start feeling your baby move?” The timing of quickening varies, but it may occur at around 18 weeks of pregnancy if this is your first baby. But, of course, everyone is different, so it’s perfectly normal to experience quickening earlier or later than 18 weeks.
But how early you feel your baby move with your second pregnancy can be different, possibly closer to 16 weeks. If you’ve been pregnant before, your uterine muscles might be more sensitive to movement, which is why second pregnancy symptoms might be a little different, such as experiencing quickening slightly earlier than first-time parents.
It’s also important to keep in mind that some babies are generally more active than others, so if your little one is a bit more relaxed, you might not feel quickening and subsequent movements until later. Contact your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns.
What Does Quickening Feel Like?
Not everyone is familiar with the term quickening, but perhaps you’ve heard about “pregnancy flutters,” which is how many describe the feeling.
In addition to flutters, what do quickening movements feel like? Quickening can feel different for everyone, but other ways to describe it include
Don’t worry if you can’t decipher what it is you’re feeling! Quickening will be subtle, but as time goes on your baby’s movements will become stronger and more apparent.
Where Do You Feel Baby Flutters?
As you anticipate the moment when you feel your baby move for the first time, another thought can pop up, and you might wonder where in your uterus those tiny movements will occur. As mentioned above, how early you feel these flutters can vary, also impacting where you feel quickening.
Because of your baby’s small size and the positioning of the uterus, experiencing early pregnancy flutters is rare. At around 12 weeks—when fetal movement typically starts—your uterus will be lower in your abdomen, close to your pubic bone. And by 20 weeks, the top of your uterus is still no higher than your belly button! Due to the timing of this positioning, you’ll feel those first quickening sensations and other baby movements in the lower abdomen.
Beyond Quickening: When Do Babies Start Kicking?
Feeling baby movements in the womb is probably very exciting for you! It’s a reminder that your baby is growing and developing, and it might also be an emotional moment for you as you bond with your little one.
After quickening, you may notice that your baby’s movements get gradually stronger and more frequent. But as your little one grows bigger (around the start of your third trimester) you’ll likely notice movements that feel like kicks, punches, or even somersaults! At about 28 weeks, you may be able to feel 10 movements within a two-hour period.
Although every baby is different, and your little one might move earlier or later than what’s described below, here’s a general summary and typical timeline of fetal movement:
Typical Timeline: Fetal Movement
What You May Feel
Early fetal movements
16 to 20 weeks
Butterfly flutters, gentle tapping, muscle spasms, bubblespopping, etc.
Light fetal movements
20 to 28 weeks
Small movements similar to the very first quickening movements
Kicking and general movements
Stronger movements such as kicks, jabs, punches, andsomersaults
What Do Baby Kicks Feel Like?
They’re called baby kicks for a reason! As your baby’s movements become stronger and sharper, they may feel like kicks. But the words “baby kicks” are often used to describe any strong fetal movements, and your baby probably isn’t kicking all the time (though sometimes they are!). Your little one could be hiccupping, moving their elbows, changing positions, pushing, or any other type of movement.
As your baby moves more often, you’ll start to notice a pattern that you might be able to anticipate. At this time, it’s common to wonder when you can feel or see your baby kick from the outside or when other people can feel your baby kick. As your little one grows, you might see a little indentation or stretch on your belly when they move. And once you can feel them move with your hand on your abdomen (likely in the third trimester), so can others! Just wait for that pattern to start and call your partner or family over!
Why Do Babies Kick in the Womb?
Fetal movement is an important part of your baby’s development. Movement helps them grow and keeps their joints, muscles, and bones healthy. Specifically, stretching and kicking will help prepare your little one for life outside the womb.
Remember that some babies are less active than others, so you might not always feel movements. It’s also common to feel fetal movement less often as your baby develops sleeping patterns or as your due date draws near, as it gets tight in that belly of yours!
This doesn’t necessarily mean that anything is wrong, though. As you enter your third trimester, you can talk with your healthcare provider about if and when to start counting kicks, which can help keep an eye on your little one’s development.