Can A Baby's Movement In Utero Predict Personality?

None of my babies have been this active. This little one inside of me is currently kicking, squirming, flipping and swimming in ways I just don't remember.

Pregnant woman and daughter |

Photo credit: Monkey Business Images/Stockbyte/Getty Images

I told my sister-in-law about how active my baby has been lately and she looked at me with wide eyes.

"Uh oh," she said. "That's exactly how Elizabeth was." And with that, we both turned to watch my niece try to catapult herself off yet another piece of furniture.

I can't help but wonder, seeing my super-active niece and knowing how active she was before she hit life outside of the womb: Do my baby's in utero gymnastics mean anything? Does fetal activity predict a child's personality? Am I in for a super-active baby instead of a relaxed child that will be content to sit in her carseat as we speed along to all her sibling's activities?

Sleeping like a baby

Dr. Max J. Laurore, from Geisinger Health System, a member of the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and the American Medical Association and recipient of the 2009 Synergy Medical Customer Service Award, says that put bluntly, there's no connection between how active a baby is in utero and his or her activity level after birth. Furthermore, he notes that a perceived lack of activity isn't necessarily a concern, either.

"A 32-week fetus sleeps 90% to 95% of the day, so if there is minimal activity, it’s traditionally not a cause for concern," he explains. Although, if you are concerned, he reminds pregnant patients to speak with their doctors about “kick counts” and what numbers they should be expecting during their pregnancies.

Fetal factors

Do you ever notice how your baby seems to move more some days or even at certain times of the day? Eating and drinking fluids can increase movement, says Dr. Laurore. While the baby doesn’t directly consume what you eat, it shares your blood sugar, which is affected when you eat a meal or drink a glass of juice. "When you eat or drink, and your blood sugar is affected, you may feel the baby move and kick in response," he says.

While most women are able to feel the baby’s movements by the fifth month of their pregnancy, that movement isn't exactly consistent throughout the pregnancy. "As the baby grows, you may feel less movement because of its decreased space in utero," explains Dr. Laurore. Other things that can affect how soon or how often you feel the baby move can include your weight, the location of the placenta and whether or not you’ve had babies before. For instance, a placenta that attaches at the front of your uterus as opposed to the back can "block" some of your baby's movements so you feel movement later on in the pregnancy. And contrary to popular belief, you don't always feel your baby move earlier with more pregnancies; with my fourth pregnancy, I actually didn't feel the baby move as early as my second or third pregnancies — I was almost all the way up until my 20-week ultrasound before I felt my baby move, and even then, they were very light movements.

Movement matters

The position of the baby can also affect how a mother perceives his or her movements. "Moms will feel more movement where the extremities are," says Dr. Laurore. For instance, he explains that if the baby is head down, movements will be felt at the top of the belly, while mothers with breech babies may feel less movement as the feet will be pointing down. Additionally, If the baby is facing your back (anterior babies), moms may feel less movement than moms with babies that are facing forward (posterior babies). Moms whose babies are in the anterior position may also feel the most movement in the upper right or upper left quadrants of the belly, while moms whose babies are in the posterior position typically feel a lot of movement, consistently and strongly. And let's not forget twins, whose mothers will feel movements on both sides of their belly at the same time. (In fact, that's often an early sign of twins — movement felt on both sides simultaneously.) 

For me, however, with twins safely ruled out, it would appear that there's no easy way to predict if my baby is going to come out ready to run at full-speed ahead, or be the calm, relaxed baby that a mom of four might just hope for. (What? I didn't say that was me... )

More on pregnancy

Can your pregnancy diet influence baby's gender?
Dental health during pregnancy
Pregnancy travel guide: 9 safety tips


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