Pregnant? Be Sure to Count Kicks!

     Kick counting is a simple, free way of assessing your baby's well being. Done once a day for just a few minutes this easy technique can help expectant mothers tune in to their babies' patterns and possibly alert them to fetal distress.

Some stillbirths are unexplained and some are unavoidable. But in some cases, stillbirths can be prevented if the mother is highly aware of her baby's movements. You can track your baby's activity by using a written log of kicks. While every baby is different, in general, babies in the third trimester should move at least 4-5 times an hour. If you detect a change, either a decrease in movement, or an unusual increase in your baby's level of activity, it may mean your baby is in distress. Should either occur, call your doctor at once. If you can't reach your doctor, go to the hospital to have your baby checked.  Don't wait until office hours; go to an ER if you have to. A "false alarm" is far better than having a stillborn baby.

The mission of the Baby James Project is to increase public awareness about stillbirth and the fetal assessment technique of kick counting, in hopes that no family needlessly endure the agony of losing  a baby.

How It's Done
*Start at about 24-28 weeks, when you feel your baby move regularly.

*Pick a time of day when your baby is usually active. Do your counts about the same time every day.

*Take note of your start time, sit or lie quietly and start counting distinct movements (rolls, turns, wiggles and jabs count too!).

*When you've felt ten movements, jot down how long it took.

*Do this daily You'll soon get to know your baby's patterns.

When There Is Cause For Concern
*If it takes more than two hours to feel ten movements.

*If your baby is moving 50% less than previously.

    *If you notice a significant deviation from the pattern over the course of 3-4 days.

If Your Kick Count Shows A Significant Change In Movement…
Repeat the count for the next two hours. You may want to drink some juice or something cold.
If you still do not count ten movements in those two hours, or if the amount of movement felt is 50% less than usual, call your doctor or GO TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM! Do not wait until the next morning.
The next morning may be too late!

"But I am very near my due date. Doesn't the movement slow down when the baby starts to run out of room?"

False. Babies move just as frequently as they near full term; the movements are just more subtle. Counting kicks can help you tell the difference between a big baby who doesn't have a lot of "wiggle room" and a baby who may be in distress.

"But my baby moves all the time. Doesn't that mean he is OK?"
What you really want to know is, how is your baby moving TODAY in relation to yesterday and last week? Movement alone is not assurance that your baby is fine. You need to know what is the normal activity level for your baby, so you can also tell when the amount of movement is NOT normal.Also, don't rely solely on a home fetal Doppler. Kick counting can alert you to distress before the issue effects the heart rate. By the time the heart rate is effected, it may be too late.

"So if this is so important, why hasn't my doctor/midwife told me about it?"
The short answer is, many doctors don't think it is worthwhile, and they think it will cause patients to become paranoid.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends kick counting. But few OB/GYNs mention it to their patients, and even fewer actually teach patients the techniques.  Why?  Here is an excerpt from a San Francisco Chronicle article (Suzanne Pullen, Sunday, March 25, 2007)
"After a study of 68,000 women published in the Lancet in 1989 asserted that there was no benefit from kick counting, teaching it quickly fell out of practice.
But in the last few years, stillbirth advocates have been challenging the study's findings. The largest flaw, according to stillbirth researcher Dr. Frederick Froen, was that stillbirth
rates in both the study group and the control group -- which was told that kick counting would be studied but told not to do it -- decreased significantly.
In 2005, Froen surveyed more than 5,000 women with a stillbirth. Fifty percent had noticed a decrease in their baby's movements several days prior to their loss. Fifty-six percent said it was the first reason they had to believe something was wrong."

Dr. Diep Nguyen, a California OB and kick counting advocate, says some doctors don't teach kick counting because they think it will cause mothers to panic unnecessarily, but that studies show no increase in a mother's anxiety when she is given clear directions about how to count and about a baby's normal sleep cycles.

About the Baby James Project…
Blair Blanks began her campaign for kick counting awareness after the stillbirth of her son, James, at 39 weeks due to a cord knot. Blair was never told about this simple, free method of stillbirth prevention and will never know if perhaps her son's distress could have been detected in time to save him. This site is dedicated to James and all the other babies who never got a chance at life.

Did You Know?   

Stillbirth is ten times more common than SIDS deaths. Even if kick counting only prevents ten percent of all stillbirths, that would be akin to wiping out all SIDS deaths in the U.S.

Want to know more? Here are some helpful links…

Charts for Kick Counting

Kick Counts- James' story
in San Francisco Chronicle

James' story in-depth and a photo essay of his birth