How (and When) to do a Kick Count

dr. jennifer boyle
By Jennifer Boyle, MD, FACOG Obstetrics & Gynecology | St. Luke's OB-GYN
About the Author:
My philosophy on OB patient care is to try to make people as comfortable as possible during this exciting time. I often try to help people keep an open mind about labor and delivery, especially first time parents. You don’t really know how your body is going to behave during labor until you get there, so we talk about enjoying the process and not worrying too much if things are not exactly as they expected.

Fetal movement is one of the most reliable non-medical ways to track your baby’s health and development. It can also provide an opportunity for you to slow down, relax and connect with your little one in the days and weeks before arrival. However, performing a kick count can too often become a point of stress and anxiety for a mother.

At St. Luke’s we aim to educate mothers on why kick counts are important, when it’s the right time to perform one, how to perform one correctly, and when it might be time to contact their doctor.

Kick counts track fetal movement. And a decrease in fetal movement may be a sign that your baby is in distress and needs to be delivered.

Kick counts don’t need to be performed daily. A mother is the best person to judge fetal activity. And, if you’re noticing your baby not moving as much as you’re used to, that’s the time to perform a kick count. However, scheduling it into your daily tasks is unnecessary and can add anxiety to an exciting time.

Kick counts work best when you are relaxed. I advise my patients to drink a big glass of water, have a snack, and lie down on their left side, placing their hands on their belly. Think of this more as a time for relaxation and connection than a medical procedure.

You’re looking for ten movements in an hour. The term ‘kick count’ is a bit of a misnomer, because you’re not only looking to count strong kick-like movements. In fact, in your third trimester, there’s not really much room for your baby to kick any longer. What you’re tracking are all movements. They can be as subtle as a flutter or as firm as a roll. Any noticeable fetal movement counts toward the total.

Call the birthing center if you don’t feel ten movements in an hour. But remember, babies sleep for long periods of the day and decreased fetal movement doesn’t always signal an issue. What will likely happen is the staff will ask you to come in so they can put your baby on a heart monitor and possibly perform a live ultrasound to check-in and provide you with some reassurance.

If there are any further concerns after these additional checks, the St. Luke’s birthing center is prepared to guide you and your baby through the next steps.

To make an appointment with Dr. Jennifer Boyle

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