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Postpartum health

08th Feb 2024

What are ‘Phantom kicks’? The postpartum phenomenon

Jody Coffey


Pregnancy is a fascinating thing!

Feeling your baby’s kicks for the first time is one of the most treasured memories many mums will take from pregnancy.

As your baby continues to grow, the kicking becomes part of daily life.

What many mums don’t expect is to still feel their little one kicking after they’ve vacated the womb.

While research is limited on the phenomena, phantom kicks frequently occur as a part of postpartum life.

According to Healthline, Tiffany Woodus, MD, FACOG, an OB-GYN, says that phantom kicks are when a new mum will continue to feel baby movement in the abdomen for days, weeks, months, or even years after childbirth.

“It’s hard to make a determination as to whether or not these sensations are normal, as we do not have a clear understanding of what they are or what causes them,” Woodus tells the outlet, indicating that more studies and research are needed in this area.

Credit: Getty

However, one online survey carried out by Monash University discovered that women can experience phantom kicks for several years after giving birth, with one woman feeling them upwards of 28 years postpartum.

Almost half of the 197 women who participated (40 per cent) said they felt phantom fetal kicks after giving birth for the first time.

On average, the respondents surveyed felt phantom kicks for 6.8 years after childbirth.

What’s more is that 25 per cent of the women described phantom kicks as a positive experience, while 27 per cent felt a feeling of upset or confusion about them.

It’s important to note that this study has various limitations such as the respondent’s inherent associated bias of self-selection and recall bias.

Woodus adds that further research is needed to determine the role phantom kicks play in the postpartum period.

While the exact reason postpartum women experience phantom kicks is unknown, there are a few theories.

These include changes to the uterine cavity or abdomen in pregnancy, being part of postpartum recovery as the body remodels muscle and connective tissue, mental health conditions (such as anxiety or depression), or having a more heightened sense of awareness towards bodily functions after pregnancy.

The main thing is to not worry as they are typically not cause for concern.