The Unborn Child
Moves Just Like Any Other Baby!
The way the child moves before birth is similar to
the way a newborn baby moves. Prenatal movement patterns
are easily recognizable to persons familiar with the
kinds of movements made by pre-term and full-term infants.
It's amazing that the pattern of yawns and stretches
seen in the first trimester remains the same throughout
life. The child is engaged in all kinds of movements
as early as the sixth week after conception. At this
time, periods of inactivity typically last no
more than about 260 seconds. See if you can identify
with the movements that I've highlighted below.
Hiccups first occur during the sixth week after conception.
In a study of twelve children all of them were hiccupping
by the eighth week, with a median frequency of about
50 hiccups per hour.
Startles first occur from 6 to 7 ½ weeks after
conception. During the seventh week, they were observed
in twelve of twelve children studied, with a median
rate of 42 startles per hour.
Isolated arm movements begin about 7 ¼ to 8
½ weeks after conception, with isolated leg movements
starting after the first 7 ¼ to 10 ½ weeks
of life. Backward head movements first occur from 7
½ to 10 ½ weeks.
Rotations of the head also begin from the middle of
the seventh week after conception to the middle of the
tenth week. During the eleventh week, these movements
were present in twelve of twelve children studied, with
a median frequency of five rotations per hour. In a
separate study, the median frequency was 63 rotations
per hour during the eighteenth week.
Breathing movements begin during the eighth week after
conception. A single, large displacement of the diaphragm
can seem like a sigh. During the ninth week, ten of
twelve children examined were making breathing movements,
with a median frequency of about 30 breaths each hour.
During the eleventh week all twelve children were breathing,
and the movements doubled to about 60 per hour. By the
seventeenth week, the median breathing rate was 208
times per hour.
The child's breathing movements are related to the
mother's eating pattern. In a study of ten children
twenty to twenty two weeks after conception, the frequency
of their breathing movements was much higher during
the second hour after their mother's breakfast or lunch
than during the third hour. Breathing movements occurred
most often just after the mother's meal at noon.
Stretches first occur during the eighth week after
conception. From the twelfth week onward, stretching
an arm is frequently accompanied by extending the fingers.
Jaw openings and forward head movements begin during
the 8 ½ to 12 ½ weeks after conception.
During the tenth week, ten of twelve children examined
opened their jaws, with a median frequency of about
18 movements per hour. By the twelfth week, all twelve
children were opening their jaws, and the median frequency
had increased to 30 times per hour.
In a separate study of ten children during the twentieth
to twenty second weeks after conception, the median
number of jaw openings increased from 51 per hour in
the early morning to 97 per hour in the early afternoon.
Hand-to-face contacts first occur 8 to 10 ½
weeks after conception. The hand touches the face slowly
and the fingers often open and close. The child also
sometimes inserts fingers into its mouth.
During the tenth week after conception, hand-to-face
contacts were seen in all twelve of twelve children
examined, with a median frequency of about 25 contacts
each hour. In a different study of nine children, the
median number of hand-to-face contacts was 95 per hour
eighteen weeks after conception.
Tongue movements begin during the ninth week after
conception. Yawning starts from the middle of the ninth
week to the middle of the thirteenth week. Finger movements
first occur during the tenth week after conception when
opening and closing of one or more fingers can be seen.
Sucking and swallowing begin from the middle of the
tenth week after conception to the middle of the twelfth
By the thirteenth week, the child can accomplish a
complete change of position, usually with a backwards
Slow eye movements first occur during the fourteenth
week after conception and rapid eye movements begin
during the twenty-first week. In an examination of nine
children, the median number of eye movements during
the eighteenth week after conception was 25 per hour,
increasing to 101 per hour during the thirty fourth
week. "Blink-startle" responses have been
seen during the twenty second and twenty third weeks.
During the twentieth to twenty second weeks after conception,
the daily pattern of the child's heart rate follows
changes in the mother's heart rate. The child's heart
rate decreases overnight.