Have you ever been lying in bed, minding your own business, when you suddenly feel a light baby kick or strange phantom movement from within? Not like an obvious kick to the bladder you experience late in pregnancy but rather those first quickenings or flutters around the 15-20 week mark?
My first thought is always, “Shit, could I be pregnant?” Followed by a few crazy thoughts.
My second thought is always, “How could I not have realised it until now?”
Pregnant or crazy? Probably crazy
Sure, there are lots of stories of women not discovering they are pregnant until well into the pregnancy, but this probably isn’t the case, especially if you’ve had a baby in the past. Feeling phantom baby kicks after you’ve already had a baby is actually super common. And it doesn’t mean you’re pregnant again. So what does it mean?
It simply means your brain is messing with you. According to Philip Corlett at Yale School of Medicine, after pregnancy, a woman’s brain could still be expecting those sensations to occur, causing some change in the body, he says.
“It underlines the role of expectations in perception — not just to the outside world, but of your body too. And I think that’s exciting,” says Corlett.
If you’ve given birth in the last few months, the movements may simply be your uterus contracting back to normal. This takes a bit of time.
Our spidey senses are activated after giving birth
Another reason you could be feeling phantom baby kicks is that your uterus is still super-heightened from your previous pregnancy. When pregnant, you unconsciously become in tune with every little movement within – you wait for them, you pay very close attention to them, you count them, you film them. This habit often sticks around for months, even years to come.
So when your tummy gurgles or your uterus contracts, your brain still picks these movements up whereas before pregnancy, you probably never took notice of them at all.
Feeling our baby kick becomes a very positive sensation for us mums-to-be. One that clearly plays a pretty memorable role in our brains. When you think about it like this, it makes sense that our brains would continue to search for these movements, even if there is nothing there.
Baby kicks, 28 YEARS later
And it’s not just us too. Heaps of women find that this superpower of feeling phantom baby kicks is activated after birth. Scientists at Monash University, Australia, conducted an online survey and found 40 per cent of the women had felt phantom foetal kicks after giving birth.
The sensation persisted for an average of 6.8 years following delivery with one woman experiencing the baby kicks 28 years after giving birth.
Forty per cent of the women who experienced the kicks said they occurred more than once a week, while 20 per cent of that number said they felt them daily.
Whether the phantom baby kicks send you into a slight panic or leave you feeling nostalgic, it’s nice to know you’re not alone. And not pregnant or crazy either. Just blessed with spidey senses in our uteruses. No biggie.