Baby movement decreased

■ 3rd trimester

Most pregnant women get to know their baby's typical patterns of movement and are attuned to changes in the frequency or intensity of those movements. You may notice a slight decrease in your baby's activity in the last few days before birth. In late pregnancy, the number of fetal movements you perceive often declines gradually. The baby has less room to move around in the uterus, especially after his or her head drops into the pelvis.

Although a baby who isn't very active in the womb may be perfectly healthy, decreased fetal movement can be a sign that something is wrong. A significant drop in fetal activity in the last trimester of pregnancy may indicate that the baby is in jeopardy, possibly because of decreased oxygen. This may be caused by a variety of problems, such as a knotted or compressed umbilical cord. A problem with the placenta also may lead to problems for the baby.

■ Self-care for decreased baby movement

If you're concerned about the baby's activity, take a break from other activities. Sit down and drink a glass of juice or regular — not diet — soda. Concentrate on your baby's movements. In most cases, you'll find your baby is more active than you realized. Almost all babies will move at least four times each hour.

■ When to seek medical help for decreased baby movement

Don't hesitate to contact your health care provider if you're worried about a decrease in your baby's movement. Call your health care provider immediately if:

• You feel no fetal movement for more than one hour.

• You notice a significant decrease in your baby's movements — fewer than 10 movements in a two-hour period.

Your health care provider can check the condition of your fetus. Decreased fetal movement is often noted in time to help the baby if he or she is in trouble. When a possible problem is found, the baby may need to be delivered immediately, often by emergency Caesarean birth, during which the baby is removed through an incision in the mother's abdomen. Prompt action may prevent serious problems.

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