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NOTE: Opinions and advice provided on this website are based on the personal experience of the author, Stacy Quarty. Ms. Quarty in no way claims to be a professional source of medical, psychological or statistical information.

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Fetal Movement

Q. I am 20 weeks pregnant with my second child. I felt the baby move a couple of times already. Sometimes I go days without any movement. I went to the doctor because I was worried, but they checked the heartbeat and everything was okay. Is it normal to not feel constant kicking at this stage? I can't remember from the last time. I keep thinking the baby does not have all of its limbs. I am not going for my ultrasound until 21 weeks.
-Anonymous, New York

A. At 20 weeks you may or may not notice fetal movement. If you've noticed it once and haven't felt it again, it's probably because of the baby's position– maybe the baby is facing and kicking inward instead of outward (where you can feel it). It's also possible that the fetus is moving when you are sleeping or too busy to notice the movements. At 28 weeks fetal movement is much more obvious and continuous. If at that point you've noticed lack of movement for 24 hours or more, you should consult your doctor.

Q. I am 21 weeks pregnant and have experienced some bleeding during this, my first pregnancy. I feel fine and have no pain. Last night I noticed a brownish slight vaginal discharge. Should I worry? Also, I haven't felt the baby move yet.
-Emily, Arkansas

A. In mid-to-late pregnancy, light bleeding or spotting shouldn't be cause for concern, but should be reported to your doctor immediately, just in case. The swollen cervix, with an increasing pressure on it, may bleed due to a doctor's examination, intercourse or just for the hell of it. If you experience heavy or bright red bleeding at this point in your pregnancy, you should see your doctor ASAP for an examination.

As far as the baby's movement is concerned, you should not be worried. Some women do not "feel" the baby until 27 weeks or so, especially with a first pregnancy.

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Q. I'm a 23 year-old pregnant woman in my 20th week of my first pregnancy. However, I have yet to feel the baby kick and my stomach hasn’t changed much at all. It still hasn't hardened. I am overweight and can't tell what part is my "fat" and what's the baby "fat."
-Lakeisa, Illinois

A. The first movements of the baby (called “quickening”) can occur between 14 and 26 weeks. If you're overweight, you may not notice the movements until the latter end of the average, when the baby becomes more active.

Also, with first-time pregnancies, it's sometimes hard to recognize just what the baby’s movements feel like. I remember feeling my first baby move-- the fluttering felt as if I had swallowed a small bird. My friend Sandra said her baby’s quickening felt like someone nudging her from the inside.

Be on the lookout for quickening after eating a meal, while you are lying still. I usually felt the most movement after dinner, when I would prop my feet on the couch to relax.

As far as your stomach hardening or changing in appearance, since you are overweight, you may not notice a big change until much later in the pregnancy, if at all.

The "hard" stomach of pregnancy is caused when the uterus expands and balloons out against the flesh. A slender woman may look like she's got a basketball under her shirt, while an overweight woman may just become rounder and wider all over.

If possible, try not to gain too much weight with your pregnancy because you will need to be in the best shape possible for the birth- now that's a workout!

With my first pregnancy, I thought that I had the "license to eat," so I did. A lot. I gained way too much weight and became extremely uncomfortable. Not only did I gain a ton, but the baby did also- so much that she was too big to be born vaginally.

With my second pregnancy, I ate more sensibly, still had a big baby, but was in good enough physical shape to endure the long labor and push her out vaginally. What a difference between the vaginal and the C-birth! I highly recommend the vaginal way, but that's another subject entirely...

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Q. I am 25 weeks pregnant and I can feel the baby moving occasionally throughout the day. Sometimes my husband will try to feel the movement, and if he can't feel anything, he will jiggle my belly and she will kick. Is this harmful to the baby? Will it cause any damage? I would feel very silly asking my doctor and would not want to offend my husband. Thank you.
-Anonymous, New York

A. I don't think you need be concerned. The baby is well cushioned within your uterus and surrounded by amniotic fluid. A vigorous shaking of the belly is probably no more jarring than a gentle nudge.

I, too, remember shaking my belly to wake my baby so that my friends and family could feel her move. I think it's a pretty common practice among expecting parents.

Q. My wife is three months pregnant with our second child. After taking a shower, she felt something “dropping” in her vagina. When we examined, it didn't seem like there was anything there. There was no blood or discharge either. What do you think it could be?
P.S. Nice site.

-John, New York

A. In the first few months of pregnancy, muscles, ligaments and tendons stretch and reposition themselves. These readjustments sometimes cause uterine spasms or the movement of other innards. Did you know that during the course of pregnancy a woman's intestines can be relocated as far as 12 inches? It's possible that your wife was just very conscious of this kind of movement. A uterine spasm or “gut shifting” may have put pressure on the vagina - like a dropping feeling.

The other possibility is that your wife may have felt a flutter of fetal movement. With second and subsequent pregnancies, most women "feel" the baby sooner.

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Q. I've been pregnant for about a year and nothing has really happened, besides the horrible stomach pains. The other day my stomach started to growl a lot and I could hear it. Plus, the rounding of my belly has been changing. If I stay really still, put my hand on my belly and hold my breath, I feel movement that feels like looping in circles. What could all of this mean?
-Anonymous, Oregon

A. I assume you must be exaggerating when you say you've been pregnant for a year. I know the forty weeks can seem longer than they are. If you are being literal, you might not be pregnant and should check it out with your doctor.

The growling, circular movements and shifting shape of your belly are probably the baby moving around. The growling occurs when your baby puts pressure on your intestines and shifts gas around. This can sometimes be quite uncomfortable, if not painful. The movements and shifting shape are a lot more apparent at the end of pregnancy when the baby is pushing very tightly against the uterine wall. Sometimes you can clearly see or feel a foot, the head, the rear end or the baby's back. At times like this your belly can appear quite distorted as opposed to the typical beach ball rounded belly.

Q. Can you hear the baby's heartbeat at six weeks?
-Anonymous, Texas

A. Most women won't be able to hear their baby's heartbeat until 10 or 12 weeks, and only with the use of a highly sound sensitive instrument (a Doppler) at the doctor's office. An ordinary stethoscope might be able to pick up the sound of the heartbeat at 17 or 18 weeks. However, you might be able to see the flickering of the baby's heartbeat as early as six weeks with an internal sonogram. With both of my pregnancies, first seeing the tiny flickering of the baby's heartbeat was truly a magical moment!

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Q. I am 21 weeks pregnant with my first child and I am not clear on exactly what fetal movement is. Is it only the baby kicking, or does it also include the baby jabbing with its arms? If it is both, how do you decipher between the two?
-Anonymous, Washington DC

A. Fetal movement is exactly what it sounds like: when the fetus moves her/his arms, legs, head or entire body. At 21 weeks it's practically impossible to tell just what appendage the baby may be using to give you a jab or a flutter (unless, of course, you were to watch a sonogram during the time you felt the fetal movement).

During the last trimester you will become more familiar with your baby's movements and her/his parts. At times you may be able to clearly see a foot, an elbow, the rear end, the back or the head pushing out against your skin. Believe me, you will really feel it then!

Q. I am 33 years old and 26 weeks pregnant with my second child. I'm feeling unusual fetal movements (jerking & kicking). I didn't feel this type of movement during my first pregnancy. Is it due to low quantity of fluid? Is there any chance of miscarriage?
-Sarah, Arizona

A. Every pregnancy can be so different, even within the same woman. For instance, during my friend Sharon's first pregnancy she had extreme morning sickness and heartburn throughout. During her second, she had none. Every baby is different with his or her physical attributes and personality. The more vigorous jerking and kicking could be from a more active baby or maybe you are physically smaller with this pregnancy and the movements feel much more pronounced.

Frequent belly checks at your OB/GYN should put you at ease with the state of your pregnancy. A strong fetal heartbeat and plenty of fetal movement indicate a very healthy and normal baby.

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Q. I'm 30 weeks pregnant with my first pregnancy. It seems the baby has nearly stopped moving and I also have bad pain just under my right rib cage. Is this normal?
-Anonymous, Florida

A. As the baby grows bigger and bigger, his or her living quarters are becoming more and more cramped. Therefore, there's less room to move around. By the end of your third trimester, you may not have many kicks and flips, but may notice the baby twisting, pushing and rolling around. The pain under your rib cage is most likely the baby pushing a foot or leg against your ribs. I remember having to literally reach in under my rib and dislodge the baby's feet to get some relief. The good news is that this pain usually means the baby is head down and ready to go.

If you are really concerned about lack of movement, you can try this test: Lie down or get into a comfortable position that you can remain in for some time. Check the clock and begin counting fetal movements of any kind, including rolls, squirms, hiccups, kicks, pushing or flutters. Most women will feel about 10 movements within 10 minutes or so. If you don't, try taking a break, have a snack and begin again. If after two hours you have had no movement, you should call your OB/GYN to check it out.

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Disclaimer: This web site, Frankly Pregnant: The Reality Site of Pregnancy, and the book it represents, Frankly Pregnant: A Candid Week-by-Week Guide to the Unexpected Joys, Raging Hormones, and Common Experiences of Pregnancy, in no way claim to be sources for expert medical or professional advice of any kind.

©2006 Frankly Pregnant: The Reality Site of Pregnancy, by Stacy Quarty. All rights reserved.

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