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'Phantom Kicks’: Women’s Subjective Experience of Foetal Kicks after the Postpartum Period'


Sasan, D and Ward, PGD and Nash, M and Orchard, E and Farrell, MJ and Hohwy, J and Jamadar, S, 'Phantom Kicks': Women's Subjective Experience of Foetal Kicks after the Postpartum Period', Journal of Women's Health, 30, (1) pp. 36-44. ISSN 1540-9996 (2020) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2020 Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.

DOI: 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.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:phantom kicks, pregnancy, women, foetus, motherhood
Research Division:Indigenous Studies
Research Group:Other Indigenous studies
Research Field:Other Indigenous studies not elsewhere classified
Objective Division:Health
Objective Group:Specific population health (excl. Indigenous health)
Objective Field:Women's and maternal health
UTAS Author:Nash, M (Associate Professor Meredith Nash)
ID Code:138752
Year Published:2020
Web of Science® Times Cited:1
Deposited By:Office of the School of Social Sciences
Deposited On:2020-04-28
Last Modified:2021-01-29

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