"Phantom Kicks": Women's subjective experience of fetal kicks after the postpartum period

Disha Sasan, Phillip G.D. Ward, Meredith Nash, Edwina R. Orchard, Michael J. Farrell, Jakob Hohwy, Sharna D. Jamadar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)36-44
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Women's Health
Volume30
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2021

Keywords

  • fetal kicks
  • maternal mental health
  • maternity
  • phantom
  • pregnancy
  • proprioception

Cite this