What pregnant women need to know about kick counting

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 Photo: Getty Images

When Gemma Green fell pregnant with her fourth baby she thought it would be plain sailing. After all, she had already done it three times.

But unlike her first three babies, the fourth wasn't much of a wriggler.

"It just wasn't feeling right," Gemma recalls.

During her third trimester, Gemma was able to use a technique known as 'kick counting' to monitor the baby's movements.

The counting confirmed Gemma's suspicion that her baby wasn't moving much. Concerned, she contacted her obstetrician. "I said to the doctor 'in the morning I wake up and hope the baby is still alive'," she remembers.  

The doctors were fast to act, and began daily assessments with ultrasounds and fetal monitoring to ensure that the baby was ok. "Everything looked great but I sensed something wasn't normal with the movement, it lost its predictability and it was concerning," Gemma says.

"The doctors said low fetal movement can be the only sign of stillbirth."

At 39 weeks Gemma was booked in for an induction, and thankfully, her baby was born safely. There is no way of knowing what would have happened if Gemma hadn't trusted her instincts.

Tragically, more than 2500 babies are born still in Australia every year. In at least one third of stillbirth cases there's nothing wrong; the deaths of 800 babies a year remain unexplained. Kick counting is one measure that pregnant women can take to reduce the risk of stillbirth.

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So what exactly is kick counting? Well, as the name suggests, it's as simple as counting the baby's kicks in order to monitor movement.

Claire Foord, founder of Still Aware, says that a baby's only direct link to the outside world is through its mother. "Taking time each day to monitor a baby's movement is as important as mother's taking prenatal vitamins and staying healthy," she says.

"By setting aside time daily to feel your baby's kicks, rolls or pokes, you can bond with your bump and monitor your baby's health as well."

Still Aware suggests that women begin kick counting from 28 weeks. "Pick a time when your baby is active. Make sure that your baby is awake – having a cold class of water is a good wake up call," Foord explains.

Then sit or lie comfortably and begin counting. Each of your baby's movements count as one kick.

"We suggest counting until you reach 10 kicks, but you can choose a number that suits you and your baby and stick with this," says Foord.

It's important to note that all babies are different, and some move more than others. Foord suggests getting to know what's normal for you and your baby.

You can record your daily results in a kick chart, your phone or diary. There are also apps, such as Count the Kicks, you can use to keep track.

Foord notes that the key thing about kick counting is consistency. "If anything seems different or if you have a 'bad feeling', trust your feelings and call for a check up," she says. "Do not wait."