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Yes, Phantom Baby Kicks Are Real—Here's Why They Happen
Some people say they can actually still feel baby kicks years after giving birth. Here, experts break down the phenomenon of phantom kicks.
What Are Phantom Kicks?
What causes phantom kicks, how long can phantom kicks last, should you worry about phantom kicks.
Feeling baby kicks is one of the joys of pregnancy for many people. But sometimes people feel these kicks after their baby is born—or even after a pregnancy loss . Called phantom kicks, this strange phenomenon of feeling random kicks in your abdomen when you're not pregnant is real, normal, and more common than you'd think.
The causes of faux fetal kicks are typically unknown, although gastrointestinal sensations or postpartum abdominal muscle healing may be at play. While scientists aren't exactly sure why these strange post-pregnancy abdominal flutters occur, it is a confirmed phenomenon. So, as crazy as it sounds, if you're experiencing phantom baby kicks, you're not alone. Here, we break down what's going on.
Phantom kicks after giving birth or experiencing pregnancy loss are flutters that mimic fetal movements during pregnancy. They can be physically felt—or even seen across the abdomen—just like fetal kicks during pregnancy. It's unclear why some people experience them and others don't, but they are actually pretty normal and can happen days, months, or even years postpartum.
In fact, according to a study of 197 people published in 2021, nearly 40% of participants reported feeling phantom kicks after being pregnant. Of those who had the sensations, 27% described them as "nostalgic or comforting," while 25.7% said they "felt confused or upset by the experience."
Experts typically attribute these kicks to a heightened awareness of what's going on in your body, gas, or your body recovering postpartum . However, the exact mechanisms causing this phenomenon are unclear as there is a lack of data on the experience. Ultimately, experts can't yet explain it with 100% certainty.
Gas and digestion likely contribute to these sensations. "We all have sensations in our abdomens on and off, some more than others, usually related to [gastrointestinal] motility and digestion," says Marjorie Greenfield, M.D. , vice chair of obstetrics and gynecology at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland and author of The Working Woman's Pregnancy Book . "I know personally that I have had sensations that if I didn't know better I might think were kicks."
Some experts believe feeling phantom kicks after pregnancy might even be similar to phantom missing limb pain, where someone might feel sensations in a body part that's no longer there. This happens when nerves send the wrong signals.
"There are other phantom movements/feelings/pain that many people feel when they have had a loss like loss of a limb," says Tamika Auguste, M.D. , professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Georgetown University School of Medicine and vice chair of Women's and Infants' Services at MedStar Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C.
Mind-body connection and grief
We also know that a person who is not pregnant can really think they're pregnant and have real symptoms (such as a swelling abdomen, perceived movement, and loss of a period), explains Dr. Auguste. This is called pseudocyesis or false pregnancy. In the case of people who may have experienced a loss, there may even be an emotional and physical component related to the trauma of a miscarriage or stillbirth .
"The mind and the body are not separate entities, and I am certain that an increased awareness of sensation due to grief, for example, could lead to more sensations, and maybe even changes in GI motility," says Dr. Greenfield.
There isn't a lot of scientific research on phantom baby kicks. However, according to anecdotal evidence, these sensations are most likely to happen in the early months and years after childbirth or pregnancy loss. But there is a great variation among individuals—and some people report feeling phantom kicks many years after pregnancy.
On average, the participants in the 2021 study felt what they described as "real kicks" or "flutters" for 6.8 years postpartum, though one person reported feeling the sensation 28 years after giving birth.
Most likely there is no reason to worry about phantom baby kicks, though Dr. Auguste recommends discussing any worries with a health care provider.
"I don't think a feeling of a baby kicking is likely to represent a serious physical medical condition that needs a workup unless there is pain or abdominal distension," says Dr. Greenfield. And while there's probably nothing to be worried about physically, it's important to note that these phantom kicks could have an impact on your mental health.
"Although we found no significant association between phantom kicks and postnatal depression or anxiety, our results suggest that the influence of phantom kicks on mood should not be neglected," the researchers concluded. "Content analysis of women's responses to phantom kicks suggested that the experience could exacerbate symptoms of anxiety, particularly in the case of stillbirth."
That's why it's so important to see a medical provider if the sensation is troubling you or causing you any pain—physically or emotionally.
While little research has been done to fully explain the phenomenon, what is known is that phantom kicks are common, normal, and rarely a cause for concern. One possible cause is heightened awareness of bodily sensations, such as gas, nerves misfiring, or abdominal muscle twitches, that feel similar to real fetal kicks. If you're experiencing phantom kicks, check in with a doctor if you have any questions or concerns. While some people enjoy this reminder of pregnancy, others find it upsetting, particularly in the case of pregnancy loss.
"Phantom Kicks": Women's Subjective Experience of Fetal Kicks After the Postpartum Period . J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2021.
Phantom Limb Pain . StatPearls . 2022.
Biosychosocial view to pseudocyesis: a narrative review . Int J Reprod Biomed . 2017.
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Some women feel fetal kicks years after they've given birth
By Grace Browne
21 November 2019
40 per cent of women surveyed felt kicking after they had given birth
Many women feel a fetus-like kicking in their abdomen even after they have given birth . These phantom fetal kicks can last for years and in some cases decades after the pregnancy has ended.
Disha Sasan at Monash University in Australia and colleagues conducted an online survey in which they asked 197 Australian women who had been through pregnancy about whether they had experienced these sensations.
The team found that 40 per cent of the women had experienced phantom fetal kicks after their pregnancy and that the experience continued for an average of 6.8 years after giving birth. For one woman they persisted for 28 years. Almost 20 per cent of the women who experienced the kicks said they felt them daily, and double that proportion said they felt them more than once a week.
Read more: Pregnancy changes how hundreds of genes work in a woman’s body
Many women described phantom fetal kicks as emotionally positive, making them feel nostalgic or comforted. However, others, particularly those who experienced traumatic births, abortion, miscarriage or stillbirth, said they were left confused or upset by them. “These sensations may have implications for a mother’s mental health during a vulnerable time,” wrote the team.
Susan Ayers at City, University of London says the study may not give a full reflection of the number of women affected by phantom fetal kicks as people are more likely to opt to do the survey if they have something to report.
It isn’t known why phantom fetal kicks occur. It may be down to how our brains perceives our body, says 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.
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Why It Can Feel Like You're Pregnant For Years After You've Had A Baby
The other day I was lying in bed, cuddling with my son as he was falling asleep. All of a sudden, I felt a familiar flutter in my abdomen, a sensation I associate strongly with baby kicks during pregnancy.
These were not the kind you feel in late pregnancy, when you can clearly tell that a baby foot is kicking you squarely in the belly button. No, these felt like the quickening movements I experienced with each of my pregnancies, at about 18 weeks or so – a flurried tapping, a strange bubbly sensation.
My first thought was, “Oh, it’s probably just gas.” Except, well, there wasn’t any “release” associated with the supposed gas, and I can usually tell when something digestive is happening with me.
Nope, it felt so specific, so familiar, so singularly associated with my babies’ early kicking that I started to freak out a little.
“Could it be ?” I thought, going through things like when my last period was, when the last time was that my husband and I did the deed. But I had just finished my period four days prior, which meant there was no way I had ovulated, conceived, and was well enough into a pregnancy to start to feel a baby kicking.
Soon enough, I came to my senses and realized what the heck was going on…I was experiencing phantom kicks, of course!
If you haven’t heard of them, phantom kicks are basically imitation baby kicks that women who’ve been pregnant sometimes experience. It’s been seven years since I’ve been pregnant, and while I don’t experience them that often, about once or twice a year, I definitely do.
Phantom kicks always stop me in my tracks. They feel so real, and I pretty much always start to believe I’m somehow pregnant when I’m clearly not. It’s totally bonkers.
Apparently, I’m not alone. I recently came across a really interesting survey about phantom kicks put out by the folks at Monash University in Australia. Researchers there surveyed 197 women who had previously been pregnant about their experience with phantom kicks.
Nearly 40% of the women surveyed had experienced phantom kicks at one time or another. These women described the phantom kicks as “real kicks,” or “flutters,” and 50% of moms described the kicks as “very convincing.” On average, women who experienced these sensations say they continued about 6.8 years after giving birth. So it’s not just new moms who experience this.
And get this: one mom they surveyed still experienced phantom kicks 28 years after giving birth. Incredible .
Probably the most important takeaways of the survey was how the women felt about these sensations. Now, for me, I am usually just confused and a little anxious when I experience them, because my reproductive factory is closed for business as far as I’m concerned and the idea of having another baby right now is, ummm, not welcome.
Phantom kicks always stop me in my tracks. They feel so real, and I pretty much always start to believe I’m somehow pregnant when I’m clearly not.
However, I mostly feel positive about the experience, a bit of that nostalgic, “oh I remember those magical moments of pregnancy” thing.
According to this survey, 25% of women describe the sensations as positive. 27% reported feelings of confusion and even feeling a bit upset by the sensations. However, 16% described the feelings as negative, and this was particularly true among mothers who had experienced pregnancy loss, including stillbirth.
The researchers were struck by the intense emotions these mothers shared with them, and believe further research should be carried out about the mental health effects of phantom kicks among mothers who had experienced pregnancy loss .
“Although we found no significant association between phantom kicks and postnatal depression or anxiety, our results suggest that the influence of phantom kicks on mood should not be neglected,” the researchers wrote. “Content analysis of women’s responses to phantom kicks suggested that the experience could exacerbate symptoms of anxiety, particularly in the case of stillbirth.”
Yes, it seems vital to me that the connection between phantom kicks and postpartum mood disorders be researched more fully. I can only imagine how triggering an out-of-nowhere baby kick would be to a mother who lost a child.
In general, the researchers point out that phantom kicks are a subject that has been woefully under-researched—as is the case with so many aspects of women’s health. In fact, they point out, there is no clear consensus on what even causes phantom kicks. At the time, they explain, the mechanism that causes these sensations in women is unknown, though they assure that the sensations have nothing to do with delusions or hallucinations (whew!).
So what might be causing us to be experiencing phantom kicks, even years after giving birth?
The researchers have a couple of theories, including “misattribution of normal bodily sensations”—which basically means confusing the sensations of digestion or other bodily processes with baby kicks. Yep, been there, done that.
But then there is also the “proprioception” theory, where phantom kicks are thought to be similar to phantom limbs, where you still experience the sensations of a missing or amputated body part even after it is gone.
Ready to have your mind blown? Check out how the researchers describe it.
“During pregnancy, the innervation of the abdominal region by ongoing foetal movement increases over the ~40 week gestation, and rapidly ceases at childbirth,” they write. “The rapid reduction of abdominal somatosensation at childbirth has some similarities to the rapid cessation of innervation following limb amputation. It is possible that phantom kicks may be phenomenologically like the phantom limb phenomenon.”
Women who experienced these sensations say they continued about 6.8 years after giving birth. So it’s not just new moms who experience this.
Wow, women’s bodies are amazing and fascinating. It seems to me that there is still a lot to learn about phantom kicks, and certainly any relationship between them and postpartum mental health should be researched ASAP.
For me, this bit of research validates the fact that yes, it’s normal to experience phantom kicks even years after you’ve given birth, and it’s also normal to experience a myriad of different emotions along with them. And while it might be “just gas” in some cases, it’s not all “in your head” either.
My hope is that the next time I experience a phantom kick, I will simply be able to enjoy the phenomenon as a cool thing that women’s bodies sometimes do…without rushing out to buy a pregnancy test and demanding my husband get an immediate vasectomy.
This article was originally published on Jan. 2, 2020
Phantom Kicks: All Your Questions, Answered
Table of Contents
What are phantom kicks, how does it differ from phantom pregnancy, why do phantom kicks happen, how often can you feel phantom kicks, what you can do about phantom kicks, can meditation help, get the newsletter.
Evidence-based health and wellness resources for fertility, pregnancy and postpartum.
One of the most exciting physical sensations during pregnancy is feeling those first flutters and kicks. But what happens if you feel those symptoms months or even years after you’ve given birth?
If you’ve ever experienced this, you probably got very confused, maybe even a little unnerved. But what you were feeling is a very real phenomenon called phantom kicks, and it’s nothing to be worried about.
While little research has been done around the appearance of phantom kicks postpartum, there is a lot of anecdotal evidence that has helped doctors understand what is going on and what you can do if it happens to you.
Most pregnant people anxiously await the moment when they begin to feel their growing baby fluttering around inside ( usually between weeks 16 and 25 1 ). The first time you may wonder if what you’re feeling is a foot or just gas. Then, you look forward to each new twitch until your baby is showing off their strength, sometimes with forceful, stomach-moving kicks. It’s an exciting feeling, but not one you expect to have after your baby is out and bouncing around in the world.
Yet, a few months after giving birth , you may be snuggling with your baby, driving in the car, or cooking dinner when out of the blue you feel what you can swear is a baby kicking inside you.
This is an experience known as phantom kicks, or the perception of fetal movement felt by women after they are pregnant. In one study of 197 women, 40% experienced 2 these sensations. While nearly 27% said the phenomenon felt nostalgic, even comforting, and reminded them of pregnancy, an almost equal number, 25.7%, were left feeling confused or upset.
The biggest thing to remember if this happens to you is that this sensation is normal and whatever emotions it brings up for you are valid.
Because of the name, it’s easy to get phantom kicks confused with phantom pregnancies. While phantom kicks are only the feeling of flutters in the belly, phantom pregnancies—or pseudocyesis 3 —present with more signs and symptoms of pregnancy. People experiencing this condition may have morning sickness, a growing belly, enlarged breasts, missed periods, increased appetite, and weight gain. What they experience are the real, physical symptoms of being pregnant.
Phantom pregnancy is a fairly rare condition. While it’s not usually related to pregnancy loss, it can occur after extreme emotional stress. The manifestation of phantom kicks, on the other hand, doesn’t necessarily coincide with stress.
Unfortunately, there is no clear consensus on what causes phantom kicks. There are a few different ideas, but this condition has been under-researched, like many female-specific issues. Sadly, gender bias 4 in research is still a common issue that needs to be fixed.
While no one has an exact answer on what is causing those phantom kicks, there is anecdotal evidence that has led medical professionals to some hypotheses. If you experience this condition, it may be caused by one of these or a combination of these factors:
When you are pregnant, your organs move around 5 to make room for your growing baby. Your bladder is pressed down. Your stomach moves up and rotates. Your intestines are being compressed by your uterus as early as nine weeks. By the end of 40 weeks, your stomach and intestines are pushing on your liver and lungs. All this movement is completely natural and very necessary to grow a baby inside of you.
After birth, your body slowly starts the process of returning your organs to their rightful place—or at least close to it. While your organs are on the move after birth, you may feel certain sensations. These changes didn’t happen overnight to begin with, and it takes your body a little bit of time to get back to its new normal. This organ migration may be one cause of kick-like sensations during your first year postpartum .
Heightened awareness of feelings in your body
During pregnancy, you become very tuned into your body. You are probably noticing every little movement, usually waiting for that first kick or hiccup. As pregnancy progresses, you are also on high alert to notice any signs of labor. It’s hard to turn off this heightened awareness right after you give birth, and the lingering awareness may be the cause of phantom kicks.
After pregnancy, your body shifts and moves around. Gastrointestinal movement is the sensation you will feel the most. While before pregnancy you probably didn’t notice what was happening in your abdomen very often, you may be tuned in to every little gurgle postpartum. A simple bout of gas or the regular contractions your intestines experience to help move food through your system can make your brain trigger the memory of a kick. It doesn’t help that gas and bloating are very common after pregnancy and can be the cause of early phantom kicks.
Some women are even conscious of movement or popping feelings when they ovulate or during their period, something they may have not noticed before being pregnant. All of these movements can mimic the feeling of phantom kicks.
Nerve and muscle memory
Another theory is that phantom kicks may be a similar sensation to that felt by someone who has nerve and muscle memory after losing a limb. If someone loses an arm, for instance, they may feel different sensations where that arm once was even though it’s no longer there.
When you experience new sensations like a baby kicking in your belly, it’s such a specific feeling, unlike anything you have ever felt before. While pregnant, you are intensely attuned to all of your baby’s movements and kicks. This may create muscle and nerve memory, which results in phantom kicks long after your baby has vacated the premises.
Endometriosis 6 is a condition that causes the tissue that normally lines the uterus to grow on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, or intestines. This condition can cause extremely uncomfortable and irregular periods. Research shows it affects anywhere from 10-15% of reproductive-aged females.
While endometriosis is not a proven cause of phantom kicks, many women who suffer from endometriosis report a feeling of movement in the abdomen, much like fetal kicks. If you suspect endometriosis may be the cause of your phantom kicks, schedule an appointment with your doctor. They can do certain tests to evaluate your situation, including a pelvic exam, ultrasound, MRI, or laparoscopy.
Phantom kicks can also be experienced after miscarriage or pregnancy loss. While the loss may not be a direct cause of this phenomenon, it is good to know that what you are feeling is normal.
While there is nothing to worry about physically when experiencing phantom kicks, if it is affecting your mental health and your grieving process, talk to your doctor about things you can do. They may recommend going to therapy to help you through your experience and lessen the emotional toll of phantom kicks.
With the lack of research surrounding this subject, there is also a lack of understanding about what is a normal amount of phantom kicks to feel. What we do have is anecdotal evidence.
Some women report feeling phantom kicks every once in a while. Some feel them more regularly—like once a week—while others feel them multiple times a day.
While phantom kicks are not harmful, if they’re bothering you or keeping you from your normal life, don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor, especially if your mental health is being negatively affected.
For some, phantom kicks can be a cause of frustration since they are unpredictable in both when they appear and how long they last. For others, they can be a comforting feeling, bringing up good memories of pregnancy.
Depending on how you feel, you may wish to get rid of phantom kicks as soon as possible. The first step to treating them is to figure out which of the possible causes may be at the root of your case. Once you’ve narrowed it down, reach out to a specialist who can help with your particular triggers.
While there is no research that directly links meditation to phantom kicks, there is research showing meditation relaxes the muscles throughout the body. If the feeling of kicking is caused by muscle and nerve memory or even a heightened awareness of the body, meditation may help relax your abdominal muscles, reducing the feelings altogether.
Additionally, meditation 7 can help you with any negative emotions you have surrounding phantom kicks and mental health.
Regardless of why the phantom kicks have appeared, the most important thing to remember is that the sensation is incredibly normal, that your feelings about them are valid, and that it is easy to treat this phenomenon as soon as you get to the root of the issue.
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Expectful uses only high-quality sources, including academic research institutions, medical associations, and subject matter experts.
Stephanie Watson . " Feeling Your Baby Kick " , Mar 3, 2023 , https://www.webmd.com/baby/fetal-movement-feeling-baby-kick .
Sasan, D., Ward, P. G. D., Nash, M., Orchard, E. R., Farrell, M. J., Hohwy, J., and Jamadar, S. D. . " "Phantom Kicks": Women's Subjective Experience of Fetal Kicks After the Postpartum Period " , Journal of women's health , vol. 30 , no. 1 , Aug 25, 2020 , pp. 36–44 , https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32846107/ .
Tarun Yadav, Yatan Pal Singh Balhara, and Dinesh Kumar Kataria . " Pseudocyesis Versus Delusion of Pregnancy: Differential Diagnoses to be Kept in Mind " , Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine , vol. 34 , no. 1 , Jan 16, 2012 , pp. 82–84 , https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3361851/ .
Liu, K. A., and Mager, N. A. . " Women's involvement in clinical trials: historical perspective and future implications " , Pharmacy practice , vol. 14 , no. 1 , Mar 15, 2016 , pp. 708 , https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4800017/ .
John M. Kepley, Kaitlyn Bates and Shamim S. Mohiuddin. . " Physiology, Maternal Changes " , Mar 12, 2023 , https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK539766/ .
Parasar, P., Ozcan, P., and Terry, K. L. . " Endometriosis: Epidemiology, Diagnosis and Clinical Management " , Current obstetrics and gynecology reports , vol. 6 , no. 1 , Mar 1, 2018 , pp. 34–41 , https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5737931/ .
McGee M. . " Meditation and psychiatry " , Psychiatry (Edgmont (Pa. : Township)) , vol. 50 , no. 1 , Jan 1, 2008 , pp. 28–41 , https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2719544/ .
Expectful writers and editors are experts in health & wellness during fertility, pregnancy, and postpartum.
Many women feel 'phantom' fetus kicks years after giving birth, says study
Long after pregnancy, many women can experience fetus-like kicking in their abdomen. The "phantom kicks" can last for decades, with some women experiencing these sensations up to 28 years, according to a new survery.
These sensations, the researchers say, may be lead to depression and anxiety in vulnerable women.
The study, conducted by researchers from Monash University, Australia, found that 40% of the participating women had felt "phantom fetal kicks" - averaging 6.8 years following delivery. Further, these sensations could make women's perception of true fetal movement -- which is an important indicator of fetal health in pregnant women -- unreliable, says the study.
Women widely experience phantom kicks, according to Disha Sasan, the author of the study. Though it is widely discussed between women and on online mothers’ forums, the topic has not received attention from the scientific community, she adds.
Accordingly, the researchers conducted a survey that included 197 participants. They found out that 40% of women experienced the kicks more than once a week, while 20% of them experienced them daily. They also realized that women's responses were divided on how they perceived the experience. Some found the experience positive, especially for those who cherished their pregnancy. For others, especially among women who have had stillbirths, the experience was traumatizing.
The analysis reveals another troubling picture: 22.3% of the women have reported to have battled postpartum depression, while 30.5% of the women experienced postpartum anxiety. According to a participant, whose baby was delivered stillborn at 24 weeks, the sensations were upsetting as it “fooled” her into thinking that she was still pregnant. She adds, “I thought the kicks were caused by my body returning to normal [after pregnancy], combined with wishful thinking that my baby did not die."
Another participant reported feeling confused. She says, "Very confusing! I had my hand on my baby in her cradle and she kicked. My mind couldn't make sense of what I felt. That sensation was usually in my abdomen but I felt it in my hand instead. I still can't reconcile the feeling."
There are still parts about the condition scientists do not understand completely. For instance, scientists do not know why phantom fetal kicks occur. It may be down to how our brain perceives our body, Philip Corlett at Yale School of Medicine told NewScientist . After pregnancy, a woman’s brain could still be expecting those sensations to occur, causing some change in the body, he explains.
You can find the study here .
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Women can feel phantom fetus kicks years after giving birth
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Women can feel phantom fetus-like kicks for up to 28 years after giving birth, new research has revealed.
Scientists at Monash University, Australia, conducted an online survey of 197 Australian women who had experienced pregnancy.
They found 40 per cent of the women had felt phantom fetal kicks after giving birth and that the sensation persisted for an average of 6.8 years following delivery.
For one woman, the strange sensation continued for a further 28 years.
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.
20 celebrities who have opened up about baby loss
The emotions women associated with the kicks varied, depending on the circumstances surrounding the pregnancy.
Some women reported the phantom kicks as a positive experience, saying they prompted feelings of nostalgia or comfort.
- Crazy Ex-Girlfriend star speaks out about having a miscarriage
Yet a proportion of respondents were left feeling confused and upset by the sensations.
Twenty seven per cent of women questioned said the kicks impacted them negatively, particularly individuals who said they had experienced abortion, stillbirth, miscarriages or traumatic births.
“It made me feel really upset that my body was still “fooled” into thinking I was still pregnant,” reported one anonymous participant, whose baby was delivered stillborn at 24 weeks.
“[I thought the kicks were caused] by my body returning to normal [after pregnancy], combined with wishful thinking that my baby did not die,” she added.
Researchers have yet to find a biological explanation for the kicks but wrote that the results showed post-partum phantom kicks were a “widely experienced” sensation.
They also noted that the kicks may also be a risk factor for anxiety and depression in vulnerable women.
"It may be down to how our brains perceives our body" Philip Corlett of Yale School of Medicine told The New Scientist .
"After pregnancy, a woman’s brain could still be expecting those sensations to occur, causing some change in the body," he explained.
If you have been affected by any issues raised in this article, please visit Mind UK .
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"Phantom Kicks": Women's Subjective Experience of Fetal Kicks After the Postpartum Period
- 1 Monash Biomedical Imaging, Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.
- 2 Turner Institute for Brain and Mental Health, School of Psychological Sciences, Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.
- 3 Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Integrative Brain Function, Clayton, Victoria, Australia.
- 4 School of Social Sciences, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia.
- 5 Department of Medical Imaging and Radiation Sciences, Biomedicine Discovery Institute, Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.
- 6 Cognition and Philosophy Lab, Department of Philosophy, Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.
- PMID: 32846107
- DOI: 10.1089/jwh.2019.8191
Background: During pregnancy, a woman will attribute increased abdominal sensations to fetal movement. Surprisingly, many women report that they feel kick sensations long after the pregnancy; however, this experience has never been reported in the scientific literature. Materials and Methods: We used a qualitative approach to survey n = 197 women who had previously been pregnant. We calculated the number of women who had experienced phantom kicks after their first pregnancy, and explored subjective experiences of kick-like sensations in the post-partum period. Results: In this study, we show that almost 40% of women in our sample experienced phantom fetal kicks after their first pregnancy, up to 28 years (average 6.4 years) post-partum. Women described the phantom sensations as "convincing," "real kicks," or "flutters." Twenty-seven percent of women described the experience as nostalgic or comforting, and 25.7% reported felt confused or upset by the experience. Conclusions: Our results demonstrate that phantom kicks in the postpartum period are a widely experienced sensation, which may have implications for a woman's postpartum mental health. The mechanism behind the phantom kick phenomenon is unknown, but may be related to changes in the somatosensory homunculus or proprioception during pregnancy.
Keywords: fetal kicks; maternal mental health; maternity; phantom; pregnancy; proprioception.
- Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
- Postpartum Period*
- Prenatal Care*
- Qualitative Research