Fetal Activity Counts:
Why Are They Important For My Baby?
Movement is an important part of fetal development.

Throughout pregnancy, your baby has been busy growing and maturing as it prepares for life outside of the uterus after delivery. Physical movement is an important aspect of a baby’s growth as the baby develops and strengthens its joints and muscles during pregnancy. Although these movements begin as early as the first trimester, the mother may not be able to feel these movements until 17 to 19 weeks gestation when the baby will be big enough to make its presence known.

Movement is an indirect indicator of fetal well-being.

Since a baby’s health and growth is dependent upon a steady supply of nutrients and oxygen from the mother through the placenta, fetal movement is an indicator that the baby is healthy and receiving the necessary elements for continued growth.

What are fetal activity counts?

Fetal activity counts are a way a mother can assess her baby’s health through using its level of activity as a sign of well-being. Even though this was initially developed for monitoring high-risk pregnancies, many physicians encourage all their expectant mothers to perform fetal activity counts so they may have a daily reassurance that their baby is healthy.

There are many different protocols that are used for performing fetal activity counts. Perhaps the most commonly used method for fetal activity counts is the “Cardiff Count-to-Ten” protocol. This protocol encourages mothers to count ten fetal movements which is usually accomplished in less than an hour in healthy pregnancies.

When performing fetal activity counts, the patient is encouraged to sit down and place her hands on her uterus while monitoring her baby’s movements. Each time she feels any fetal movement it is recorded until she documents a total of ten fetal movements. This generally may take 15 to 30 minutes to achieve but healthy babies will usually move ten times in less than an hour. If the patient fails to obtain ten movements after two hours of observation, it is recommended that she be medically evaluated to ensure that her baby is healthy. A patient’s doctor may provide her with more specific instructions as to their preference for a different protocol to follow.

Since babies seem to be the most active during the evening hours, this seems to be an ideal time for a patient to perform her fetal activity counts; nevertheless, fetal activity counts can be performed at any time during the day when the baby appears to be active.

When should I start doing my fetal activity counts?

The studies that have correlated fetal movement with fetal health have been conducted during the third trimester. With this in mind, most doctors will have patients begin to monitor fetal activity counts starting at about 28 weeks gestation.


What should I do when my baby is not moving the way it should?

If a patient is unable to get the necessary fetal counts in the allotted time frame, this does not automatically mean that her baby is in distress or that something is wrong. Nevertheless, failure to get the appropriate counts in the indicated time frame should prompt the mother to be evaluated to ensure that her baby is healthy. Fetal testing usually involves placing a monitor on the mother’s abdomen to study the heart tracing of the fetus and may include assessment of the amount of fluid around the baby using an ultrasound. These tests are generally performed at the labor and delivery department of the hospital where she will be delivering, but more specific instructions may be provided by the patient’s doctor.

Fetal Activity Count Log

To help you organize and track your baby’s fetal activity counts, we have provided the following table. While performing your fetal activity counts, each time you feel a movement cross off an “M” for that movement until all ten are crossed off. Record the start and finish times and the total time taken to get ten movements for each test.



Printable Version Of This Chart

Date Start Time Fetal Counts Finish Time Total Time
M M M M M M M M M M
M M M M M M M M M M
M M M M M M M M M M
M M M M M M M M M M
M M M M M M M M M M
M M M M M M M M M M
M M M M M M M M M M
M M M M M M M M M M
M M M M M M M M M M
M M M M M M M M M M
M M M M M M M M M M
M M M M M M M M M M
M M M M M M M M M M
M M M M M M M M M M
M M M M M M M M M M
M M M M M M M M M M
M M M M M M M M M M
M M M M M M M M M M
M M M M M M M M M M
M M M M M M M M M M
M M M M M M M M M M