One of the biggest thrills of pregnancy is feeling your baby move -- at least until the kicks start keeping you awake at night. While obese moms run a higher risk of numerous complications in pregnancy, there's no scientific proof that you will feel fetal movement later or less strongly than thinner moms if you're obese. Talk to your doctor if you have concerns about the amount of fetal movement your feel or if fetal movements decrease.
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Most women start to feel fetal movement between 18 and 20 weeks of pregnancy, when the fetus becomes large enough and strong enough to start bumping into the uterine walls. Early fetal movement feels more like gas bubbles than kicks; first-time moms may miss these early movement altogether, while experienced moms may recognize them at an earlier stage. Some women don't feel movement until around 25 weeks of pregnancy. The position of the placenta may make a difference. An anterior placenta, which grows on the abdominal part of the uterus, may absorb some of the kicks so that you feel less movement.
It's a commonly held belief that overweight or obese women feel less fetal movement than women of normal weight. While an obese women may feel less fetal movement externally, when she holds her hands over her abdomen, she can still feel fetal movement on the inside of the uterus. External fetal monitoring, including hearing the fetal heartbeat in the early stages of pregnancy, may be more difficult in obese women.
Few studies have been done on fetal movement in obese women. One British study published in the 1979 "British Medical Journal" found no correlation between maternal weight and the perception of fetal movement. This study also found no correlation between the number of pregnancies or the position of the placenta. The study was small, however, including just 20 women. An Australian article published in the July 2009 issue of the "Obstetrical and Gynecological Survey" noted that the evidence for whether these factors affect discernment of fetal movement is lacking. Another "British Medical Journal" report published in December 2006 stated that obese women may feel less fetal movement but offered no data to substantiate this claim.
Some babies move more than others, even in the womb. It's important to recognize a change from your baby's normal patterns. Obese women have a higher incidence of stillbirth, twice that of normal-weight women, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study published in the September 2007 "American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology." Decreased fetal movement can indicate fetal distress. If you notice a change in your baby's normal activity, let your doctor know immediately. He can order fetal testing to determine your baby's well-being. Many doctors recommend keeping a kick chart after the 28th week of pregnancy. To do this, lie on your side and record how long it takes to feel 10 kicks. You should feel 10 kicks within two hours. If you don't, check again later in the day. If you still don't feel 10 movements in two hours, let your doctor know, the American Pregnancy Association advises.