A woman carrying her toddler wondering why she is experiencing phantom pregnancy kicks.

What You Need to Know About Phantom Pregnancy Kicks

If you’ve been stopped in your tracks by what feels like little fetal kicks or movements even though you are one hundred percent positive that you are not pregnant, you’re not alone! Breathe a sigh of relief that you aren’t crazy while we dig into what these phantom pregnancy kicks are and why they happen.

Phantom Pregnancy Kicks Are Real

Not to be confused with a phantom pregnancy – a condition in which your body actually thinks it’s pregnant and goes through some of the changes that occur during a real pregnancy – phantom pregnancy kicks are the sensation of the fetal movements you felt when you were pregnant. This can happen days, weeks, months or even years after your pregnancy! They can even feel real enough to make you want to run out and buy a pregnancy test – because surely you aren’t pregnant, let alone far enough along to feel kicks.

Anecdotal Evidence Is Enough

Unfortunately, the phenomenon of phantom kicks has not been studied and there is not much reputable information to be found! With something like the sensation of fetal movement though, it is absolutely not a medical concern. Anecdotal evidence that it is common and harmless is enough to ease most women’s minds. So it’s real and it’s common – but what are the theories about what they are and why they happen?

Uterine Contractions

The uterus continues to move and shrink back down to its normal size and position slowly over 6-8 weeks. Even if you are more than 8 weeks postpartum, it is possible that small movements in the muscles or ligaments could cause you to feel some movement sensations in there no matter how long it has been since birth.

Body Awareness

Once a woman has been pregnant, she is often used to being very in-tune with the internal sensations that happen in that area! Every little wiggle was noticed and cherished during pregnancy. Once pregnancy is over, it may be easier to feel the little internal movements that happen naturally that we may have never noticed before pregnancy (such as gas bubbles and digestion).

Phantom Limb Syndrome

The sensation of a phantom limb is caused by nerve memory in the brain. When a person loses a limb in an accident, they might feel pain in an arm that no longer exists, or even just feel that the arm is still there when it isn’t. One theory of the phantom fetal movements is that our nerves still remember the sensation and might interpret some intestinal movement or uterine muscle movement as fetal kicks.

Relax, You’re Normal

If you have been feeling these phantom pregnancy kicks, it’s comforting to know that it’s normal. It is also a relief to know that you don’t need to leap out of bed to take yet another pregnancy test! Your next step is to learn to recognize them for what they are so that you can ignore them without getting surprised or worried. If anything, they can serve as a reminder of the little kicking peanut that was once growing inside of you. You can also be the one to spread awareness among your mama friends, so they can be forewarned and rest assured that if it happens to them it is normal and they don’t need to call their doctor for an unnecessary appointment. This is yet another unique quirk we get to experience in our lives as childbearing women. 

RELATED QUESTIONS

I may sound crazy, but I have been feeling phantom kicks lately. I swear I’m not pregnant!

Can you really feel baby kicks at 6 1/2 weeks pregnant?

I’m 8 months postpartum and feel phantom kicks all the time even though I’m not pregnant

Phantom kicks after pregnancy. Anyone feel these before?

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9 months postpartum and this past week I’ve been feeling phantom kicks that feel so real!

I’m 10 weeks pregnant with my 4th pregnancy and I swear I feel flutters. Isn’t it too early?

I know you are supposed to get 10 kicks in an hour and babies move less later on in the pregnancy, but I feel like my baby isn’t moving enough

Is there such a thing as too much fetal movement?

How far into pregnancy were you when friends and family could feel the baby kicking?
 

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