As any pregnant mama knows, babies do a whole lot of moving around in the womb—usually in the middle of the night when we’re trying to sleep. As the weeks go by, those jabs and kicks start feeling stronger.

It turns out, though, the purpose on baby’s end isn’t just to get in a workout session, but to actually send vital signals that will help his or her body continue to develop properly.

According to a study published this month in the journal Development, kicks and movement stimulate molecular interactions that prompt the cells and tissues of the embryo to build a “functionally robust yet malleable skeleton.”

This means that kick may be telling the body it needs to have a bone covered in cartilage at the joint, or a jab over there may send the signal to increase bone strength.

For the study, researchers from Trinity College Dublin were able to control the fetal movements of chick and mice embryos. This gave them some interesting insight on what movements result in signals to boost cartilage or bone production.

“Our new findings show that in the absence of embryonic movement the cells that should form articular cartilage receive incorrect molecular signals, where one type of signal is lost while another inappropriate signal is activated in its place,” says co-author Paula Murphy, a professor in zoology at Trinity College Dublin, in a press release. “In short, the cells receive the signal that says ‘make bone’ when they should receive the signal that says ‘make cartilage.’”

These findings have cool implications not only for pregnant mamas thinking about what their babies are doing all day, but also for researchers seeking to improve treatments for joint injuries or diseases.

In other words, the movements are making babies stronger and healthier for when they’re born—and may help them decades down the road when researchers are better able to treat osteoarthritis.

How Much Fetal Movement is Normal?

The frequency and intensity of fetal movement can vary from baby to baby. While there is no set number of movements that is considered “normal,” healthcare providers generally recommend monitoring your baby’s movements regularly. This allows you to establish a baseline for what is normal for your baby. As a general guideline, most healthcare professionals advise expecting mothers to look for about 10 movements within a two-hour period.

In the third trimester, it’s especially important to pay attention to your baby’s movements. You should be aware of their typical daily movement patterns. While babies do have periods of increased and decreased activity, any significant change in their normal pattern should be brought to the attention of your healthcare provider.

Reasons for Decreased Fetal Movement

If you notice a decrease in your baby’s movement or a significant change in their pattern, it’s important to contact your healthcare provider. While there are non-serious reasons for decreased fetal movement, such as the baby resting or being in a position that makes their movements less noticeable, there are also more serious causes that need to be ruled out. These may include:

  • Complications with the Umbilical Cord: The umbilical cord may be wrapped around the baby’s neck or have other issues that affect blood flow and movement.
  • Fetal Growth Restriction: The baby’s growth may be slowed, which could impact their development.
  • Placental Insufficiency: The placenta may not be delivering enough nutrients and oxygen to the baby, leading to decreased movement.
  • Fetal Brain Injury: A brain injury could affect the baby’s movements and overall well-being.
  • Congenital Malformation: Structural anomalies or birth defects can impact the baby’s health and movement.
  • Hypoglycemia: Low blood sugar levels in the baby may result in decreased energy and movement.
  • Oligohydramnios: A condition where there is too little amniotic fluid can restrict the baby’s movements.

While these causes are less common, it’s crucial to seek medical advice if you have concerns about decreased fetal movement. Your healthcare provider will be able to assess the situation and provide appropriate guidance.

Reasons for Increased Fetal Movement

Increased fetal movement is generally not a cause for concern. It’s a positive sign that your baby is active and healthy. However, there are a few factors that may contribute to increased fetal movement:

  1. Growth and Development: As your baby grows, they have more space to move around, resulting in increased movement. This is particularly noticeable in the third trimester.
  2. Stimuli and Activity: External stimuli such as loud noises or your own physical activity can elicit a response from your baby, leading to increased movement.
  3. Individual Differences: Just like adults, babies have their own unique personalities. Some babies are naturally more active than others, which can result in increased movement.

It’s important to remember that increased fetal movement is not necessarily a sign of any underlying issues. However, if you have any concerns or notice a sudden and significant change in your baby’s movements, it’s always best to consult with your healthcare provider for further evaluation.

FAQ: Understanding Your Baby’s Movements in the Womb

What does it mean if your baby is very active in the womb?

A very active baby is usually a healthy sign. It means your baby is growing and developing well.

Can there be too much fetal movement?

Typically, more movement is a good sign. However, if you notice a sudden increase in activity, consult your healthcare provider.

Why is my baby moving so much right now?

Babies have active periods, especially after you eat or when you’re resting.

Do babies move when hungry in the womb?

While not directly related to hunger, babies have active periods influenced by your diet and blood sugar levels.

Does an active baby in the womb mean early labor?

Not necessarily. Active movement is generally not linked to early labor.

Is increased fetal movement something to be concerned about?

Usually, it’s not a concern. But if movements significantly change, talk to your doctor.

Which gender is more active in the womb?

There’s no scientific evidence that movement varies by gender.

How do I know if my baby is in distress?

Signs include a decrease in movement. Always consult your healthcare provider if you’re concerned.

How can I calm my restless baby in the womb?

Try relaxing techniques like gentle music, speaking softly, or changing your position.