Why I track fetal movement religiously with my second pregnancy

Valerian flowers in Big Sur, California (Miranda Hernandez)
Valerian flowers in Big Sur, California (Miranda Hernandez)

The other night, in one of the pregnancy groups I follow, someone posted about reduced movement and being concerned. My daughter had also been less active that day, and I was reading the boards for distraction while I settled and waited for her to move. Having lost my first child after I reported reduced fetal movement, I am always on the watch for these things now. I think it’s something we don’t talk about enough.

I see a lot of these types of posts, and I’m glad that the most common response is to ask the poster to go to L&D. That’s what I ended up doing the other night. My daughter was fine, but I have no regrets. Knowing that she’s fine is always better than worrying.

Unfortunately, the slightly less common but still frequent response is to tell someone their baby is running out of room. This is a prevalent myth, but it is quite untrue. Babies do not run out of room. The uterus grows with the baby throughout the pregnancy, and continues to grow until the baby is born. Unless he or she dies; that’s the only alternative.

Baby movements may change as they grow. I started feeling mine early this second pregnancy, and they were just tiny flutters, almost imperceptible. They disappeared for a while before I “popped,” then around 20 weeks became more definite. So many kicks underneath my right ribs! By the time I started official kick counts at 24 weeks, they had changed again.

I have an anterior placenta, and I often feel dragging motions, like an elbow or knee across the top and bottom of my belly. There are also often still punches and kicks, but mostly down low, almost to my cervix. And all of this is okay. This is my daughter’s particular pattern. This is what’s important. Because some babies are more or less active than others, but all of them should be consistent with their own patterns of activity.

The other common piece of advice I hear concerns time-measured kick counts. This is when you lay down and try to count 10 movements in either one or two hours (recommendations vary). If you’re doing this, that’s fine; that’s completely up to you. I just caution you, again, not to compare your baby to other babies. If your child has 10 movements in 10 minutes most days, and then one day takes far longer, that could be a worrying sign. It’s all about what’s normal for the two of you.

I don’t write this to be condescending. I write this because I unfortunately know. I know what it’s like to think everything’s okay, and then have your entire world fall apart. I will always wish someone had said these things to me. I will always wish someone had thought I should know.

Please do kick counts, in whichever way you are comfortable. Please pay attention and know what’s normal for the two of you. Please go into L&D if you ever feel something is wrong. They are never going to be too busy. They are never going to laugh at or be annoyed with you. It just might save your child’s life. And that’s worth anything to me.

Further reading:

Kicks Count
Tommys
Movements Matter
Star Legacy Foundation

💙🐘💙 Miranda’s Blog contains my thoughts on stillbirth, child loss, mental health after loss, pregnancy & parenting after loss, and thoughts on grief positivity & grief support. 💙🐘💙
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