If you’re closing in on your due date, you might be wondering, when does the baby drop?
More to the point, what does the baby dropping in pregnancy actually mean?
And what does it feel like? Well, lucky for you, we’re here to drop some baby-dropping knowledge.
Scroll on, mama!
In this article: 📝
- What is lightening in pregnancy?
- What does a dropped pregnant belly mean?
- What week do most babies drop?
- Does baby dropping mean labor is near?
- What does baby dropping feel like?
- How do you know when baby has dropped?
- How to make baby drop
What is lightening in pregnancy?
Lightening is another name for when your baby drops in pregnancy, which might sound the opposite of what you’re feeling right now, but refers to the lighter feeling many mamas report feeling in their chest, once their baby has dropped.
After all, baby getting lower means you have more room up top for fun things.
For some mamas-to-be, it’s easy to feel their baby dropping as they’ll experience one significant downwards movement in their abdomen.
But for many pregnant women, it’s a more gradual process.
One thing’s for sure though, once your baby has dropped, you will probably know about it…
What does a dropped pregnant belly mean?
You might hear a lot about “baby dropping” in pregnancy, but what are people talking about?
Don’t worry, mama, they’re not actually talking about physically dropping a baby, but more about the phase of pregnancy when your baby starts their preparation for birth.
Also called lightening ‒ in pregnancy, at some point in your third trimester, baby will drop.
This means their body is dropping downwards, into your pelvis, with their head engaged in your pelvic cavity.
In the process of dropping in pregnancy, baby will also stretch your hips and pelvis, readying your body for delivery.
Let’s explore how to tell if baby dropped and what lightening in pregnancy means for labor.
What does your belly look like when baby drops?
It can be a bit of a shock when baby drops in pregnancy for the first time.
Basically, baby shifts their whole body to a downward position, head at your pelvis, ready for birth, and moves a little further down.
This can make your pregnant belly look quite a bit lower.
What week do most babies drop?
Okay, so when does baby drop in pregnancy?
Generally speaking, dropping in pregnancy happens at about 34-38 weeks of your pregnancy, but can be sooner, especially for twin (or multiple) pregnancies, who tend to make an early appearance.
When does a baby turn head down?
Babies usually turn head-down a little before dropping in pregnancy.
This tends to happen at about 30-36 weeks of pregnancy, but if baby hasn’t turned by 36 weeks, your doctor may recommend something called an external cephalic version (ECV).
An ECV involves a medical professional manually turning your baby to a head-down position, which can cause some discomfort, according to our mamas of Peanut.
But it can help prevent a breech baby, which can lead to a trickier birth.
What is baby’s position at 30 weeks?
At 30 weeks pregnant, baby is likely to be in a head-down position, ready for lightening in pregnancy.
However, according to Obstetric Excellence, about 25% of babies haven’t yet turned head-down at 30 weeks, so if yours hasn’t, don’t fret.
What does it mean if your baby drops at 31 weeks?
While it’s a little early for baby to drop in pregnancy, dropping at 31 weeks certainly can happen, but could be an indicator of an early labor.
If you’re concerned about baby dropping at 31 weeks, have a chat with your doctor.
Is 32 weeks too early for baby to drop?
Baby might be moving further down your pelvic area at 32 weeks, but it might be that they haven’t fully dropped in pregnancy.
If you’re positive that baby’s dropped at 32 weeks, that may be a little early, but is quite common for mamas of multiples.
Is baby dropping at 33 weeks normal?
Yes, baby dropping at 33 weeks of pregnancy is normal ‒ it may be a little earlier than expected, but, hey, this pregnancy thing rarely does go “as expected”!
Is baby dropping at 34 weeks normal?
If baby dropped at 34 weeks of pregnancy, that’s totally normal ‒ for most mamas, lightening in pregnancy tends to happen between 34-38 weeks.
35 weeks pregnant symptoms of baby dropping
Well, at 35 weeks, the main symptom of baby dropping in pregnancy is… the drop itself!
You may notice that your baby bump has shifted lower and you might feel some pelvic pain ‒ these are clear signs that baby has dropped.
It’s nearly go-time, mama!
What makes a baby turn head down?
It’s usually the amniotic fluid in your uterus that causes baby to drop in pregnancy and turn head-down.
After about 36 weeks of pregnancy, your amniotic fluid may start to decrease slightly, which triggers a response to turn head down and get ready to baby.
Can baby change position once head down?
Not usually ‒ for most babies, in the third trimester or after about 34-36 weeks, once they’re in the head-down position and lightening in pregnancy has happened, they’re very unlikely to change position after that.
Does baby dropping mean labor is near?
While your baby dropping in pregnancy is a good sign that labor may not be that far away, it doesn’t always mean you’re that close to meeting your little one — and some babies don’t drop until well into labor.
So, when exactly does baby drop?
During a first pregnancy, most babies tend to drop 2-4 weeks before labor begins, so around the 36-38 week mark.
When baby is head down, how long till labor?
Although your baby dropping in pregnancy is part of the preparation for birth, it’s not an accurate way to predict when labor will start.
Towards the end of your pregnancy, your doctor might start referring to the “station” your baby is at, using a scale of +/-3.
The stations range from -3 when your baby’s head is above the pelvis, 0 is when your baby has dropped and their head is fully engaged, to +3 is when your baby’s head is crowning.
This can sometimes be used as an indicator of progression during labor.
How long until labor after baby drops second pregnancy?
If it’s not your first time on this mama-hood rollercoaster, your baby might not drop until you’re already in labor.
That’s because your body has already been stretched and can remember how to do, you know, the whole giving-birth thing.
What are signs your baby will come early?
While lightening in pregnancy is a good indicator of labor being about 2-4 weeks away, there are a few other potential signs that baby could be making their grand appearance a little early.
Look out for these signs and get in touch with your healthcare provider straight away if you have one or more of the following in your third trimester:
- A feeling of pressure in your pelvis, like baby is pushing
- A change in your pregnancy discharge
- Frequent and regular contractions
- Water breaking
What are signs that labor is near?
If you’re at about 40 weeks of pregnancy, you know that labor could happen at any moment.
Make sure your hospital bag is packed and you’re ready to go if you feel any of the following:
- Losing your mucus plug (having a bloody show)
- Baby moving a lot more
- Braxton Hicks contractions
- A little weight loss
These are all signs that labor is close, but you’re not quite there yet.
The tell-tale sign of labor is regular contractions, 4 minutes apart lasting about 1 minute each (The 411 rule).
🔎 Dig deeper: Signs That Labor is 24–48 Hours Away
What is the difference between lightening and engagement in pregnancy?
Engagement is when baby’s head is further down into position by your pelvic, and lightening in pregnancy is the process of it happening.
However, some people use these terms interchangeably ‒ “engagement” is usually used in a medical setting.
What does baby dropping feel like?
So what does lightening feel like?
Most mamas on Peanut say lightening in pregnancy feels like pressure on your pelvis, like baby’s pushing down more.
Plus, with a lower pregnancy belly, you may start to ‘waddle’ more ‒ it’s all part of the journey!
What does it feel like before baby drops?
You’ll likely notice the difference between the feeling before baby drops in pregnancy compared to after lightening in pregnancy.
Before, baby sits a bit higher, and after, they sit lower.
You might feel more pressure on your bladder after baby drops in pregnancy, too ‒ although you may be grateful that you can breathe a little more deeply.
Is it painful when the baby is turning head down?
It can be a little painful or uncomfortable when baby is turning head-down.
Usually, it happens on its own, over a few days, so you don’t notice it as much, but if baby’s still in breech position (head up or sideways) by 36 weeks, you may have to have some medical assistance to turn them.
If you do have a medical professional turn baby head-down, that can be pretty uncomfortable ‒ unlike any other sensation you’ve felt so far in pregnancy.
How do you know when baby has dropped?
Everyone’s pregnancy is different, but most expectant mamas will experience some of the following tell-tale signs that their baby has dropped in pregnancy.
A lower baby bump
This can be harder to spot if you’ve been carrying your pregnant bump quite low anyway, but generally speaking, you will notice your pregnancy belly dropping.
Resting lower in your abdomen, your bump might be more tilted forwards to indicate the baby’s head is down and engaged.
You can breathe deeply
With your baby bump lower down, you have more room in your chest for your lungs to expand.
Now is a great time to practice some deep breathing techniques to help you through labor.
You need to pee every 5 seconds
Yep, that’s right.
Your baby moving lower down is going to put some more pressure onto your bladder, so expect some frequent bathroom breaks.
So long heartburn
Your bump isn’t pushing quite so much into your stomach now, so your pregnancy heartburn and indigestion might ease off a little, and you might find your appetite increasing as a result.
No surprises here, that with a baby’s head comfortably nestled between your pubic bones, you may start experiencing some sharp pains in your pelvis.
Widely known as lightning crotch, it’s normal and nothing to stress over, but it can be uncomfortable.
The famous pregnancy waddle
After lightening in pregnancy, you might start feeling like you’re walking with a bowling ball between your legs.
While you don’t have to worry about your baby literally dropping out of you, this distinctive change in your gait can take some getting used to.
Your ligaments and muscles in your lower back are being stretched like never before, but you haven’t got too much longer left.
You can do it!
They can be painful and annoying, but they’re common later in pregnancy due to the increase in pressure on all your veins down there.
The good news is that they often reduce, or disappear completely, after childbirth.
Your baby dropping in pregnancy might mean you see an increase in egg-white-like discharge in your underwear as your cervix does some readjusting.
Don’t worry, this is normal, but speak to your doctor or midwife if you see any fresh blood, lots of fluid (like your waters may have broken), or any green-tinged discharge.
How to make baby drop
Your baby dropping in pregnancy is a natural process, so although you can encourage your baby to get down there, they’ll probably go ahead and do it when they’re good and ready.
What exercises get baby head down?
If baby’s still in breech by 36 weeks, your doctor may suggest a few exercises to help them to turn, which will then lead to baby dropping in pregnancy.
Here are some suggestions of exercises to encourage baby to turn head-down:
If you want to do your part and encourage your baby to drop, here’s how to help baby drop:
- Walking to relax your pelvic muscles
- Squatting to help gravity do its thing and help open up your hips
- Gently bouncing on a birthing ball to get the baby moving
- Pelvic tilts to create a downwards rocking motion.
How to make baby drop at 39 weeks
If it’s 39 weeks and baby hasn’t dropped, it’s best to see your doctor ‒ they may have to turn them manually to help prevent a breech birth.
So now you know all there is to know about when does baby drop in pregnancy!
Whatever your experience with your baby dropping in pregnancy, be sure that when the time comes, your body will know what to do.
If you’re ever in any doubt about changes to your baby’s movements or your pain or discomfort during the third trimester, it is always best to speak to your doctor or midwife.
💡 More from The 411:
Can You Lay on Your Stomach While Pregnant?
Your Guide to Having a Vaginal Birth
Hypnobirthing: What It Is, How It Works, and Top Techniques
Safe Ways to Go into Labor Tonight
Why Can’t You Eat During Labor?
Online Birthing Classes: Are They Right For You?
What is a Lotus Birth and Is It A Safe Birthing Choice?
Preparing for Childbirth: Helpful Things to Know
What are the Ways to Induce Labor?
What is Precipitous Labor?
How to Induce Labor (Yourself)
Your Intro to Lamaze Breathing: What You Need to Know
Prodromal Labor: All You Need to Know