You may feel your baby move this week -- but don't worry if you do not. Fetal movement -- known as "quickening" -- is normally detectable by the mother any time between the 16th and the 20th week of pregnancy. So if you can't feel your baby yet, you will very soon.
Quickening feels like tiny, butterfly-like fluttering -- movement that is so subtle you may not realize what it is at first. Later on, your baby's movements will become more pronounced and unmistakable: you'll feel kicks, jabs -- even rhythmic hiccups. These first movements are like tiny, infrequent whispers, but once you become aware of them, you will know exactly what they are.
Whether it occurs in this 16th week or a month from now, the first time you feel your baby move is one of the highlights of pregnancy. As your pregnancy progresses, your baby's movements will be so frequent and pronounced that you may take them for granted, but this first signal of your baby's existence is an important milestone. Call your partner, your best friend and your mother and tell them what happened. Record the event in your baby journal. Make a special dinner for yourself and your partner, and toast with a glass of ginger ale or sparkling cider. You are experiencing one of life's miracles, and it deserves to be celebrated.
Of course, your baby has been moving for some time, but he is now big enough for you to be able to feel it. Inside your womb, he is doing somersaults, rolls and flips, and his nervous system is now developed enough to coordinate these athletics. As of this week, your baby's muscle movements are voluntary. His arms and legs are fully developed, and all his joints are operative. His bones are growing increasingly hard. This is a particularly active time for your baby, as he still has plenty of room to stretch and move: as time goes on and he grows larger, his quarters will become tighter.
If you are going to have an amniocentesis, it is likely that your health care provider has already scheduled your appointment, as this test is usually conducted between the 15th and 18th week of pregnancy. Since the risk of having a child with Down syndrome increases with the age of the mother, medical providers used to recommend amnio or Chorionic villus sampling to women over 35 and those with a family or partner history of genetic disorders. (CVS is usually done earlier than an amniocentesis.).
But due to advances in less invasive genetic testing that involve an ultrasound and the screening of the mothers blood samples, guidelines from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists now recommend that all women, regardless of age, be offered non-invasive screening for chromosomal abnormalities in the fetus.
If you get a positive result -- that is, if the screening indicates you are at high risk -- your doctor may then recommend you get diagnostic screening (such as an amnio). At this point in pregnancy, there is sufficient fluid surrounding the baby to make amniocentesis possible. You will probably also be referred to a genetic counselor, who will consider the age, health and genetic background of you and your partner and educate you about possible risks.
Your Pregnancy Week by Week by Glade Curtis, OB/GYN and Judith Schuler, M.S, Da Capo Press.
Watch Me Grow! by Stuart Campbell, M.D., St. Martins Press.
Shanahan, M. Kelly, MD. Your Over-35 Week-by-Week Pregnancy Guide. Prima Publishing.
Sears W., MD, and Sears, M. RN. The Pregnancy Book. Little, Brown and Company.
Nemours Foundation. An Introduction to Genetics and Genetic Testing. http://www.kidshealth.org/
Nemours Foundation. Genetic Testing. http://www.kidshealth.org/
Nemours Foundation. What is the Triple Screen Test? http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/women/pregnancy/fetal/761.html
Nemours Foundation. Prenatal Tests. http://kidshealth.org/
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Diagnosing Birth Defects. http://www.acog.org/publications/patient_education/bp164.cfm