Do Kick Counts Count?

A kick count is something some OBs and midwives like pregnant ladies to do during their third trimester. There are a few different ways to do it but the most typical is to pick a time of day when your baby is usually active, sit or lie down and relax, and then time how long it takes to feel 10 fetal movements. Sometimes these movements are real, swift Rockette-style kicks to your rib cage (thanks, son) or sometimes they feel like sweeps or rolls as baby shifts around. All these movements count. It could take as long as two hours to feel 10 movements but it’s usually less than that. Babies develop clear patterns of movement starting around 28 weeks, and any deviations from that pattern can be an indication of distress.  Of course at the end they have less space, so the movements might feel different, but the frequency and timing should remain the same. Your care provider may want you to keep a journal or log each day of the time so you can see if it changes drastically one day from the next.

So what’s the purpose of doing the kick count anyway? Some care providers feel it is safe and simple way to monitor the well-being of your baby everyday. The idea is that a significant change in your baby’s day-to-day movement may be a clear signal of a potential problem with your pregnancy. It’s an easy way to detect if your baby is in any major danger because healthy fetuses move around a lot. However, a recent clinical, randomized study of 68,654 pregnant women found that monitoring fetal kicks did not decrease the rate of stillbirth in average-risk pregnancies. In this study, maternal perception of decreased movement was not statistically linked to fetal outcome. I should note that the validity of this study has been called into question because the participants were told what they were studying (hardly blind) and some feel that skewed the results.

So where does that leave you? Well, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists does not recommend for or against daily kick counting in normal, healthy pregnancies. If your OB or midwife suggests you do this, you can ask why he/she feels it’s necessary for you, especially if you think collecting this data will drive you batshit crazy with worry. But hey, at the end of the day, it might be nice to have reason to put your feet up. You can be all, “Sorry honey, I can’t cook dinner/feed the dog/discuss our taxes right now. I have to do my kick count!” And then hoist yourself onto the couch and bond with that little babe of your for an hour or so. 

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  • I filled out my kick count card for about three days before tossing it in a drawer. Guess I was already getting fed up with the medical establishment reducing my growing little sprout to a series of numbers!

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