Saving babies lives : Counting the kicks

Sometimes when I write a post I cannot stress enough how much I really, really want you to read it.

If you are pregnant right now. I really, really want you to read this post. If you know someone who is pregnant I really, really want you to share this with them.

I now know two women who’s babies lives have potentially been saved by following this advice. I am one of them, Anna Fox is another but more about our stories later.

Your baby’s movements

Your baby’s movements are a wonderful indication of your baby is growing and doing well in your pregnancy. Any sudden change in these movements might be an early indication that there is a problem that you need to get checked out.

As babies are supplied oxygen from your placenta their muscles are being fuelled with energy. They like to move around your warm womb, wiggling, kicking and sliding about. If the oxygen supply is decreasing for some reason, your baby will most probably become less active, reserving what energy they have left for essential brain and organ function.

Babies have a sleep-wake pattern through the day which means they’re often waking then sleeping for 30-40 minutes. This often varies throughout the day with periods of more active movement. Sleeping regularly for 90 minutes or more is not a normal pattern.

After that first magical movement you feel your baby move, this will continue to increase until they get to about 32 weeks old. After this the movements will plateau. Importantly they should not reduce. They may feel different. They will slide and push around more rather than give the distinctive kicks that some women experience . But they will still have distinct movements!

Annoyingly, many women report bursts of activity as they are trying to sleep!

Old advice

The advice I had 12 years ago was to wake up in the morning and count 10 kicks. Check the time and make sure each day the time was around the same time as the day previous.

This advice has now changed as it is important to consider the individual movement patterns that occur each and every day.

The advice : Counting the kicks

The last thing I want to do is for mothers to become anxious about something else in pregnancy. This is all about general awareness of your baby. It actually helps with bonding if you spend a little time getting used to how and when your baby likes to move.

Starting from 28 weeks onward:

  • Notice the patterns of your baby’s daily movements. Are they active at night or at certain times during the day? How long do they tend to be quiet (asleep for) and how long do they move around before nodding off again?
  • If you notice any sudden change of pattern and are concerned, take a large drink of water with ice (the coldness should wake the baby into moving). Lie down on your side (left is normally the most comfortable) and notice your baby’s movement for the next 2 hours.
  • You should look for at least 10 distinct movement patterns in a 2 hour period.
  • If you do not get these 10 movements or are at all concerned, call your care provider. Do not for a moment be concerned about unnecessary calls to your hospital or midwife.
  • The advice from your caregiver should be to come in and have your baby’s heartbeat traced on a monitor. If you cannot get through to your caregiver or still feel unreassured by them, go straight into the nearest maternity unit.
  • Trust your instincts.

Trigger warning

Many women who have tragically had still births had subsequently noted that their babies movements had slowed down before their passing.

Again – Trust your instincts.

My story

Our instincts are vital as mothers. If I had not followed them my story would have ended tragically.

At about 40 weeks I woke up one morning and started my kick count. I knew to do this as I was well on my way to being the biggest birth nerd in history. I read EVERYTHING. I studied with EVERYONE I could find to teach birthing and pregnancy yoga related classes.

My baby was a kicker. It seemed like she kicked all day. This day there was nothing. After a few hours I counted just one kick. I carried on counting. At about 5pm I had 6 kicks or movements. I knew something was wrong. But I didn’t want to believe it. I had planned a home birth. We were all set up for a water baby. So I waited. I waited until about 10pm at which time watching the film The secretary (luckily a crap film). I got up and said I needed to go into hospital now.

They were great when I got in. Straight into an assessment room. Then I was booked into the hospital. Literally my bum sat on my new bed for the night when I was told to go straight to another room as the consultant on duty (Rhona Mahony), was concerned. She put me on another trace and came into me after only a few minutes. She said that my trace was sinister (she later apologised for this language), but had never seen anything like it. She stressed I needed to go for a c-section immediately.

I was in utter shock. I think I was still telling them I was having a home birth as they wheeled me into theatre – I blame the drugs.

It’s a long story from herein. But in brief. There was a hole in my umbilical cord. Blood was pouring out into my uterus. Both of us nearly died. My daughter was straight to special care after having a blood transfusion. I was saved with quick action from the team.

After I woke up – I had to go under for a while, Rhona then came to talk to me. She was immensely proud of my intuition. She kept thanking me! Only two hours more and there would have been no Tuilelaith. Rhona said I should call her Lazerus. Our story would have been a very different one if I had not followed my instincts. Thinking about this now is making me very weepy.

Anna’s Story

I was only two days past my due date and felt reduced movement. Initially I thought nothing of it, then I remembered Lisa’s story from the birth workshop about how it is important to count the amount of kicks and how long it takes to get to 10 kicks. I had been feeling less kicks overall and on that particular day. I only felt 3 kicks in the morning and nothing else.

I was due to go to the hospital for my appointment the next day and wasn’t sure whether to bother going in on the day or whether I should wait until the next day. However, remembering Lisa’s story, I called the midwife who advised me to come in for a ‘quick trace’. On the trace, the heartbeat was fine but there were no movements at all.

I was transferred to the labour ward, and the doctor who examined me was concerned and decided to break my waters. After some deliberation we agreed. I wasn’t too sure about that, but thank god we did!  Once they broke the waters all that came out was meconium, barely any water at all. Apparently it was ‘mec3’ they kept saying. Then I started having contractions, but they were very strong right away and only about a minute or so apart. The doctors gave me an epidural and examined me again.

The contractions kept coming and I was not dilating, and the meconium kept coming too. The doctor said he was anxious about letting it go on and that ‘we need to get this baby out now’ since the baby seemed to be in serious distress.

I was wheeled into theatre and they performed a c section. All in all, it took 4 hours from the point of me entering the hospital to my daughter being born. She was not well when born, since the umbilical cord had wrapped around her neck and tummy twice. On top of that there was a knot in the cord itself. It took the paediatrician about 10 minutes to get her to respond. I only got to hold her for about 10 seconds before she was wheeled off to the neonatal unit, and then I did not see her again until the next morning about 12 hours later.

The midwives told me that it was extremely lucky that I came in when I did since only hours later (let alone the next day), there would have been no baby. So I got a kiss from each one of them on the table. I have to say, everybody involved was extremely reassuring and professional. Quite a few of the staff came to see me in the ward over the next few days to see how I was getting on and how Orla was. She was in the neonatal unit for two days, and unfortunately the midwives there convinced me that she needed a bottle top-up so she got a little formula on top of what I was expressing. Once she was with me I spent a night cluster feeding her from 10:30pm to 6am in the morning. I guess that was our way of getting to know each other. I was discharged on the third day and since then she has made such a strong recovery and we were getting on fine with the breastfeeding.

So that’s my story. I was quite traumatised by the whole event for the first few weeks, and I had the (apparently quite common) feeling of not having given birth because of the section, but we bonded very quickly, and with the support of my incredible husband I have been healing up nicely and coming to terms with what happened and how close we were to missing out on Orla.

So thank you very much Lisa, your advice made a huge difference in my life.



To find our more inormation about our upcoming classes and courses please contact


Collection & Use of Personal Information

By submitting your data, you are providing us with some level of personal information. This information is not stored on our website database. However, in order to respond to your enquiry, your data is emailed to our website’s email address where it is saved. Additionally, we may use your contact details to send you marketing material in the future. You may unsubscribe from any emails you receive following our first reply. We do not pass your data on to any third parties.