Why Do Babies Move in the Womb?

Babies move in the womb to help form and develop their bones and cartilage. That's why it's important to know all about it.
Why Do Babies Move in the Womb?
Leidy Mora Molina

Written and verified by the nurse Leidy Mora Molina.

Last update: 27 December, 2022

There’s nothing more exciting for a mother during pregnancy than feeling the baby begin to move in the womb. It’s a way of knowing that their little one is well, that they’re growing, and getting stronger to soon be in her arms.

But when baby’s move, it’s about more than just reminding us that they’re there. In fact, they respond to a need in fetal development to strengthen their bones and joints.  A study published in the journal Development confirms this. So, let’s see what it’s all about and how important it is for babies to move in the womb.

During what week will I feel my baby move in the womb?

From the moment a woman knows that she’s expecting a baby, she can’t stop thinking about when she’s going to feel them move. Usually, she touches her belly in search of a feeling that shows that the baby is there, inside her.

The baby’s movements in the womb begin between 7 and 15 weeks of gestation. They’re very mild and the baby is very small, so they’re hard to notice. Then, around week 20, between the fourth and fifth months, you’ll feel your baby move for the first time.

This movement in your womb will be very smooth, like tickling or butterflies. Little by little, it’ll become more intense and constant, until you feel them kicking when they turn. When the baby is older, their movements will become more energetic. In addition, you’ll increase your perception and you’ll know the baby’s routine and sleep schedule.

A woman smiling at her pregnant belly.

Generally, when you feel your baby move, you’re feeling movements of arms and legs, movements of the head and jaw, sucking and swallowing, hiccups, hand-face contact, stretching, yawning, and rotation. Additionally, modern ultrasounds show that babies can smile, cry, and blink inside the womb.

These movements will be more intense between weeks 28 and 34. After this week, they’ll decrease a bit due to the lack of space in your uterus. Of course, you’ll always feel them, especially when pushing or stretching.

Why is it important for your baby to move in the womb?

As we’ve mentioned, a study in the journal Development showed that the movement of the embryo incites the molecules that guide the cells that will form the bones and joints so they become strong and functional tissues.

In their research, scientists observed the molecular changes in the joints of chicken and mouse embryos, which works in the same way in all species, evaluating the differences between two groups of embryos. One group has free movement and a control group is immobilized. In the embryos that didn’t move, there were bone malformations and changes in the functionality of bones and joints.

Dr. Paula Murphy, who was in charge of the study, explained that without movement “the cells that should form the articular cartilage form bone by receiving an incorrect molecular signal.”

This is the reason why the baby’s movements appear so early, spontaneously through reflexes from the spinal cord. Then, as the baby grows, around week 18, they can make intentional movements that are more complex and functional. 

At the same time, the amniotic fluid, that surrounds the baby, makes these movements lighter and easier. This way, the musculoskeletal system can grow properly.

In pregnancy, the baby needs to move in the uterus in order to:

  • Strengthen the neuromuscular system
  • Adequately form and strengthen bones and joints
  • Allos us to evaluate the baby’s activity, as it’s an easy way to check on them
  • Reaffirm the affective bond between mother, father, and baby

How do I stimulate my baby’s movement?

A woman smiling with her pregnant friend.

Babies are usually very active in the afternoon and at night, when the mother’s resting. Their movements may be more constant at specific times. As your pregnancy progresses, you’ll get used to the rhythm and intensity of their movements and their kicks. Although they can be annoying sometimes, they let you know that your baby is fine.

If you’re trying to get them to move, you can wake them up and stimulate them by taking into account these recommendations:

  • Sit down, relax, and enjoy the connection. Then, you can caress your tummy and talk to them, and they’ll be sure to respond.
  • Have a sweet treat or some chocolate. Glucose stimulates their movements. 
  • Put soft music on your belly, and it will encourage the baby to move. 
  • Include your partner in this ritual. Your baby will like knowing that Mom and Dad want to feel them move.

One of the ways to check your baby’s well-being during the third trimester is by evaluating their movements and kicks for a set time several times a day. If you don’t feel movement after stimulating, you should go to the gynecologist as soon as possible to have an ultrasound and make sure everything’s going well because your baby needs to move in the womb.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.