Does Baby Movement Slow Down Before Labor?

Is there decreased fetal movement before labor?

Pregnant Woman With Hand On Belly.
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Question: Does the baby slow down before labor starts?

Answer: From the moment that you begin to feel your baby move, called quickening, you begin to wonder if what you're feeling is right. Does your baby move enough? Does your baby move too much? How often should you feel it? What should the movements feel like? Kicks? Flips? Squirms?

Towards the end of pregnancy, some mothers will say that their babies don't move as much.

This is typically not true and can be a dangerous assumption. Babies do not have decreased fetal movements before labor.

The Quality of the Baby's Movements

The quality of your baby's movements will differ. No longer can he or she flip around readily, the uterus has become more cramped as baby fills out in preparation for a healthy birth. Your baby settles into a birth positions, 97% of the time that is head down or vertex. This leaves little room to move. So while your baby is still moving, you're feeling a different quality of the movements.

"My baby was so active in the beginning of my pregnancy that we used to joke that I was going to give birth to the next great soccer player. So when I started to feel him move less frequently I asked my friends if the baby slowed down before labor," recalls Hillary. "A few of them had similar memories but didn't know if it was a problem, just that it was fine for them.

While I felt a bit silly asking my doctor about it after complaining about the near constant movement earlier in my pregnancy, they were really nice and explained it in detail. I felt so much better. I'm really glad I asked."

Talk to Your Doctor or Midwife for Help

It is normal to go from feeling big movements to feeling more squirms, jabs and tickles.

This is again, due to decreased space. To help you keep track of fetal movements, the fetal kick count helps. This enables you to report to your doctor or midwife if you notice that your baby truly isn't moving as much as he or she did before, this can be a problematic sign which might indicate the need for more testing, like a non-stress test (NST).

"Having a non-stress test helped alleviate my fears when I wasn't feeling my baby move as much as I had before," says Amanda. "I was able to see movements that I couldn't feel. While I didn't have any more non-stress tests, I was able to remember that there was stuff going on in her private little world that I didn't necessarily feel all the time."

"I didn't realize that I had an anterior placenta, which just means it was on the front of my uterus," says another mother. "It didn't complicate my pregnancy but made it very likely that I felt less movement through my whole pregnancy. My midwife taught me a few tricks to pay attention and get baby moving in a way that I could feel in order to feel more confident."

In the end, every baby moves differently, even in the same mother, all her babies will be different. So be sure to have a good idea of what to expect and a game plan for when things fall outside of normal.

You and Your Baby. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. November 2007.

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