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 actually mean? And what does it feel like? Well, lucky for you, we’re here to drop some baby-dropping knowledge. Scroll on, mama!
What does your baby dropping mean?
You might hear a lot about “baby dropping” throughout your pregnancy, but what are people talking about? You’re right — 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, your baby dropping literally means their body is dropping downwards, into your pelvis, with their head engaged in your pelvic cavity. By dropping down, your baby will also stretch your hips and pelvis, readying your body for delivery.
Let’s explore the signs that your baby has dropped and what it means for labor.
How soon do you go into labor after the baby has dropped?
While your baby dropping 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. 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. Go you!
Using your baby dropping to track labor progression
Although your baby dropping 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.
What does lightening feel like in pregnancy?
Lightening is another name for when your baby drops, 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. Like breathing.
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…
How to tell if your 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.
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
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!
Hemorrhoids happen. 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 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 can I encourage my baby to drop?
Your baby dropping 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.
If you want to do your part and encourage your baby to drop, you can try:
- 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.
Whatever your experience with your baby dropping, 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.