Saving Babies One Kick at a Time

Monitor your baby’s wellbeing in the third trimester by counting their kicks

Cheryl* had an inkling that she needed to monitor her baby’s movements. She had an anterior placenta, which can make it harder to feel your baby’s movement in the womb. When she asked her health care provider about monitoring her baby’s movement, her provider was not overly concerned, but thankfully, Cheryl’s mother’s intuition knew best.

As her pregnancy progressed, Cheryl noticed her daughter was moving less and less. As a trained OB-GYN nurse, she knew something was not right. After weeks of decreased movement and monitoring she reported at her 35-week appointment that she hadn’t felt her baby move all day. A failed stress test and an emergency C-section later, Cheryl’s daughter was born healthy.

Many other babies are not as lucky.

A Close Call

Cheryl’s baby was just 35 weeks gestation when she gave birth. Her placenta had been failing and the umbilical cord was thin and wrapped around the baby’s body and neck. It was doubtful her baby would have survived another week in the womb.

This and many similar stories have been shared at, a nonprofit started by five American mothers who all experienced a stillbirth and decided to join together to bring awareness and change. After learning about the importance of fetal movement monitoring in the third trimester, their Count the Kicks awareness campaign was born.

Counting your baby’s movements in the third trimester is an easy way to monitor your baby’s health and wellbeing. There are many free apps available to help track and remind mothers to monitor baby’s movement.

Stillbirth Still an Issue

By being aware of what is normal for their baby, expectant mothers are better able to sense a decrease in movement which can indicate fetal distress. In the United States, there are approximately 24000 stillbirths each year. That is approximately 1 in 167. The number goes up to 1 in 94 for African American moms. 

Pregnancies that end in stillbirth are about 10 times more common than the rate of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

This number includes:

  • Early stillbirth (between 20-27 weeks gestation)
  • Late stillbirth (between 28 and 36 weeks gestation)
  • Term stillbirth (37-42 weeks gestation)

According to the Center for Disease Control, the term stillbirth is not a cause of death, but rather a term for death during pregnancy. The causes of stillbirth can vary and include:

  • A genetic defect
  • Issues with the placenta and umbilical cord
  • Certain maternal conditions such as uncontrolled diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure.

There are also stillbirths that are considered unexplained and they often occur in the last trimester.

Pregnancy Symptoms

In the last trimester, especially after 35 weeks pregnant, symptoms can make it harder for women to detect baby’s movement.

After all, during this time you are on average carrying a baby that is over five and a half pounds and growing. At this point in your pregnancy, expectant mothers are likely experiencing fatigue, back pain and insomnia. Your baby is set to rapidly gain weight (about a ½ pound each week) to add to the load. While you may be in physical distress, it is important to also take the time to monitor your growing baby.

With your baby getting larger by the day they definitely have less room to roll. While their quarters may be getting cramped, the baby should still be moving at least 10 times per hour. Taking the time to lay down and count baby’s movements during the day can be a reassuring way for expectant mothers to monitor their baby. Any changes in movement should be reported to your health care professional.

You should also contact your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following:

  • Bleeding
  • Increased vaginal discharge with odor
  • Fever or chills
  • Pain with urination
  • Severe headaches
  • Vision changes
  • Blind spots
  • Your water breaks
  • Regular, painful contractions

What are the Risks of Preterm Birth?

Healthcare professionals may decide to deliver your baby early if the risk of keeping the baby in the womb is greater than the risk of preterm birth. In the U.S. almost one in every 10 babies are born preterm. Babies born before 37 weeks are considered preterm or ‘preemies’.

Preemies may often face a number of medical complications from their early entry into the world. Often, they weigh much less than preterm babies and may have complications because of organs that are not fully developed. These can include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Feeding difficulties
  • Developmental Delay
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Vision Problems
  • Hearing Problems

Many preemies are not able to be released from the hospital with their mother and must instead remain in the neonatal intensive unit (NICU) until they are healthy enough to go home. While this separation can be difficult, it is temporary and a much better outcome than the heartbreak of stillbirth.

Risk Factors for Stillbirth

While stillbirth only affects one percent of pregnancies, there are factors that can increase your risk. Knowing that you may be at an increased risk is a great reminder to stay vigilant in the monitoring of your baby’s movements in the womb. The following conditions can put expectant mothers at a higher risk:

  • Being of the black race
  • If you are under 19 or over 35
  • You are considered obese
  • Smoking cigarettes during your pregnancy
  • If you are unmarried
  • You suffer from certain medical conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure
  • If you have multiple pregnancies
  • You have previously suffered a loss

While the possibility of stillbirth is low (about one percent) the ability to better monitor your baby’s health is in your hands. While baby’s movements may decrease during the last trimester, a dramatic increase can be a red flag, not a sign that labor is imminent.

Sharing this article and this information is a wonderful way to spread awareness about the importance of monitoring your baby’s movements and the Count the Kicks campaign. You never know, your actions could have the ability to save a life!

*Not her real name.