PARENTS

Pregnant Women Urged To Be Aware Of Myths Surrounding Counting Baby's Kicks

26/01/2016 00:05 GMT | Updated 26/01/2016 00:59 GMT

Pregnant women may have been misled by advice to count the number of times their baby kicks, a charity is warning.

Women in the latter stages of pregnancy may have heard that they should count the number of times they feel their baby kick, to ensure their baby is healthy.

This advice has led many women to believe they should be counting towards a set number of kicks - with most believing they should be expecting 10 kicks an hour.

However this is a myth - one which the charity Kicks Count, formerly named Count The Kicks, is keen to dispel.

"Our key message is and always has been, that there is no set number of kicks or movements that expectant mums should expect to feel," Elizabeth Hutton, CEO of Kicks Count said.

"The movements differ with each baby and no set of movements is the same. As long as your baby is moving at a similar rate every day right up to birth, that is what counts."

pregnant woman

Count The Kicks changed their name to Kicks Count to make this message clear

The charity wants to clarify the importance of understanding a baby’s movement patterns during pregnancy rather than aiming for a set number of kicks.

The charity officially changed its name today [Tuesday 26 January] after feedback from medical professionals about how to better convey this message, as counting the number of kicks per day was interpreted as being "too prescriptive".

Hutton added: "By telling mums that Kicks Count, we can help to dispel some of the myths that surround baby movements."

HuffPost UK Parents chatted to Hutton to further understand what mums-to-be should be looking out for during the nine months of pregnancy.

Why shouldn't pregnant women focus on reaching a set number of kicks?

"All babies are different and all move at a different rate and at different times," Hutton explained.

"Up until a few years ago, women were asked to focus on a set number of kicks an hour.

"However, this advice has been updated by healthcare professionals and the Department of Health because it was not seen as a good indicator of a healthy baby."

Hutton said there are many internet forums and chat rooms full of myths about how many kicks there should be - ranging from "they have to move 10 times an hour" to "they should move 50 times over 12 hours".

"This is simply not true," explained Hutton. "Studies have shown movements can vary from four to over 100 every hour, so giving a set number would therefore be irrelevant for most of the population.

"For a mum who usually feels her baby move 50 times over 12 hours, if the baby reduced their movements to only 20 it could be a sign the baby is in distress.

"However if she used the old-fashioned method of counting to ten, she would not seek help as she met the 'recommended’ number.

"Likewise a woman who usually only feels eight movements may end up phoning the hospital unnecessarily every day as she never meets the ten required."

Hutton said another issue with focusing on a baby's kicks is that it relies on mothers' perceptions.

"There is no way to know what a woman is classing as her baby’s movements and there may be major differences between what one mum counts as her baby moving and what another counts as hers," she added.

"Therefore the safest and most reliable method of monitoring a baby’s movements is to encourage the mum to get to know her baby’s own pattern of movement.

"She will then be able to determine if her baby has a period of reduced or increased foetal movement."

pregnant woman holding belly

How can mums-to-be learn to understand their baby's movement patterns?

Hutton said women will begin to be aware of their babies' movements from around 16 to 24 weeks of pregnancy. These movements can be kicks, swooshes, punches, flips or turns. Hiccups don't count as movements.

"What is important is that you know what is normal for your individual baby," Hutton explained.

"Try and take time to focus on your baby’s movements at certain points in the day. It is good to get into a routine so that you are aware of changes in movement.

"If you find you get to the afternoon or evening and can’t remember what movements you’ve felt from your baby, you can use one of our kick counting wristbands.

"We also have an app that you can use on your phone to help you keep track of your baby’s movements.

"It is important to know what is normal for your baby and report any change in that pattern of movement."

Mum Katharine Helms-North's first son Henry was stillborn at 42 weeks.

It wasn't until she was pregnant with her daughter, Hattie, she truly understood the importance of these movement patterns.

count the kicks

Katharine Helms-North with her husband and daughter Hattie

Helms-North said it's only when she thinks back now, she realises the movements with Henry were slighter fewer at the later stages of her pregnancy, but she hadn't taken notice of the patterns.

"With Hattie, I read up extensively about babies' movements then monitored and recorded these until I knew them off by heart," she said.

"When I was worrying about movements or lack of them, I went for a few occasions to be monitored at an assessment centre.

"I had our precious little rainbow baby Hattie at 36 weeks. Without Kicks Count I would not have survived my pregnancy with Hattie.

"My kick counter wrist band became my best friend. Knowledge is power.

"If I had been more aware of Henry's movements while in labour and more educated in general about the importance of movements even so late in pregnancy, perhaps my story would be different."

For more information on monitoring your baby's movements, visit www.kickscount.org.uk.

SEE ALSO:

Holly Willoughby Helped Save Two Babies' Lives By Urging Pregnant Women To Count The Kicks

Holly Willoughby And Alesha Dixon Urge Pregnant Women To 'Count The Kicks'

When Should You Feel Your Baby Kick? Midwife Explains When And How Often Unborn Babies Move

How big is your baby today? Mum’s sweet pregnancy documentation