At first glance, the phrase “when your baby drops” is possibly alarming, especially to a woman expecting her first ever baby. Who’s going to drop your baby? How could that be a good thing? What can I do to stop this from happening?
After all, once you reach the last month of pregnancy, people may ask you whether or not your baby has dropped as if it’s something normal, expected, even anticipated!
Confused about all of this? Don’t be. That’s why we’re here. This article will answer all of the questions you have about your baby dropping, as well as how it affects your pregnancy and impending labor.
What Does Baby Dropping Exactly Mean?
No one is predicting that your baby will fall out of you, nor that they will be dropped on the floor after they’re born.
When your baby drops it means their head has come down into your pelvis, still safely tucked behind your cervix and inside the protective amniotic sack.
When Will My Baby Drop?
This typically happens around 2 to 4 weeks before your baby will be born, although since due dates are so arbitrary, this can really mean any time after 36 weeks of pregnancy.
By this stage of pregnancy, your baby fills your uterus, and there isn’t much room for them to move around anymore.
Your baby’s head moving into your pelvis is a good sign that your baby and your body are getting ready for labor, but don’t grab your hospital bag yet!
Labor could still be weeks, even an entire month away from the time you feel your baby drop, so wait for more certain signs of labor before getting too excited.
What Does It Feel Like When Baby Drops? How Can I Tell?
There are many symptoms that can accompany your baby dropping.
It won’t be a sudden thing, most likely, but more gradual over the course of a few weeks or days as your baby slips further into your pelvis to get ready for labor.
This process, also called “lightening”, aids in stretching your pelvic floor muscles so that when labor does begin your body is more prepared to guide your baby out with the gentle squeeze of your uterine muscle contractions.
There are a number of things that might change, however, to indicate that your baby has indeed dropped.
Most women describe the sensation as “walking with a bowling ball between your legs”, and – as silly or disturbing as that sounds – the new pressure of your baby’s head now lower in your pelvis can feel remarkably like a small bowling ball.
This is where the “pregnant waddle” gets its name.
You may also have an easier time taking a full breath or eating a large meal, but only slightly.
You still have 6+ lbs of baby inside your uterus taking up quite a lot of space, but when your baby drops, so does your fundus (or the top of your uterus).
This allows your squashed lungs, stomach, and other organs to have a little extra breathing room (pardon the pun).
Along with easier breathing and pressure “down there” comes relief from heartburn and indigestion, again, due to your stomach having a little more room.
Unfortunately, there are more unpleasant symptoms that can also arise, such as increased nausea as your organs shift into a different position with your baby dropping.
Your bump may or may not change position when your baby drops towards the end of your pregnancy.
It could look lower, and people may comment that you look like you’ve dropped even if you haven’t felt any of these symptoms yet.
Just let their comments roll right off and don’t be concerned. Every pregnancy and body is unique.
With more pressure downward, and especially if you have a desk job or sit all day without getting much physical activity at all, you will be more likely to develop constipation or hemorrhoids.
Relief from these symptoms can be found in eating a high fiber balanced diet, staying plenty hydrated, changing positions throughout the day (standing, sitting, laying, walking, etc.), exercising regularly, and speaking to your doctor about medication or supplements (such as magnesium) if hemorrhoids or constipation get increasingly worse or cause pain.
Constipation is especially important to resolve before labor begins, as being blocked up can affect how easily your baby descends during labor, so keep things moving!
Dull or sharp twinges in your lower back or crotch area can accompany your baby dropping, due to that little round head pressing on different nerve endings from inside.
Get relief by changing positions frequently, visiting a Webster Certified chiropractor, using a warm pad or heated rice sock on the area, and trying some Spinning Babies moves to help baby shift into a better position off those nerve endings.
You’ll also experience a more frequent need to urinate; as if you haven’t been going often enough already being pregnant and all, right?
With baby’s head lower, there is more pressure applied on your bladder, thus it won’t be able to hold as much and you’ll be running to the bathroom more than you used to.
In addition, your vaginal discharge may change. It will become thicker, possibly glob or string-like, and may smell different.
Remember that your vaginal discharge should never smell bad (like fish or rotten eggs), be bright red (bleeding), or have any other strong color or odor during pregnancy. If you have any of these symptoms, make an appointment with your care provider right away.
It is normal for vaginal discharge to be white or slightly yellowish, thick and goopy or thin and watery, and for there to be small streaks of blood when you wipe (especially if your cervix is already dilated).
This could be the beginning of losing your mucus plug, which also happens weeks, days, or an entire month before you have your baby.
My Baby Dropped! When Will Labor Start?
This question is asked a million different ways and a million times on every forum out there on the internet.
Everyone wants to know if their latest symptoms mean their baby will be born soon, and whether or not they can predict it happening within the next few days.
We get it; you’re in late pregnancy, you’re tired, and you’ve heard of babies being born as early as 37 or 38 weeks and being just fine. So, if your baby drops and you start feeling these symptoms, you want to know if you can expect labor any day now.
The short answer is yes. You can expect labor any day now, but not necessarily because your baby has dropped. It’s a good sign, for certain, but it won’t cause you to go into labor in most cases, and it’s more likely you’ll carry your baby past your due date, especially if this is your first baby.
Studies show that it’s safer and more common for you to carry your baby all the way to 41, even 42 weeks than it is for you to be induced, so avoid a medical induction if possible.
Now, if for some strongly-indicated medical reason you do need to be induced, having your baby dropped down low into your pelvis is a really good sign that the induction is more likely to be successful.
What Should I Do When My Baby Drops?
Put down the phone! There’s no need for that just yet. You don’t need to call your care provider or head to the hospital when your baby drops.
If you notice it when it happens and your symptoms are the normal ones described above, you can relax and rest easy knowing all is well with your baby. There is no need to take any sort of action unless you show several positive signs of being in labor.
Slight discomfort is normal, but if the discomfort turns into severe, constant or regular pain (i.e., contractions), your water breaks, or if you find significant amounts of bright red blood in the toilet or when you wipe – that’s when you should call your care provider immediately.
Likewise, action should be taken if you develop severe diarrhea or nausea, or get feverish.
It’s very unlikely that your water will break as a direct result of your baby dropping, but in the slight chance that it does, there’s no reason to be concerned unless this happens prematurely (before 38 weeks of pregnancy).
Then you should go to the hospital and see if they can halt the labor and keep your baby inside of you a little longer.
After 38 weeks your baby isn’t likely to be born premature, and if contractions start or pick up, then congratulations! Your baby is on the way!
If contractions don’t begin after your water breaks for several hours, you may want to check in with your care provider.
Your Baby Doesn’t Have To Drop
First of all, you may not feel your baby drop. There may be very few symptoms, and if you have a wide pelvis you might not feel anything at all.
Many women out there have never noticed symptoms of their babies dropping in any of their four plus pregnancies, even the first one, until labor began.
It’s more common for a first-time mother to feel her baby drop prior to labor since the muscles in the pelvis and uterus are tight and haven’t become as relaxed as those of a woman who has had multiple babies.
In the case of a first baby, “dropping” before labor helps to stretch and relax those muscles to make labor a better and more efficient experience for you and your little one.
There are many reasons you might not feel your baby drop, besides having multiple babies. These include:
Generally, there isn’t enough room for one baby to drop down low into the pelvis before delivery if you’re expecting twins, although it could still happen.
Having A Larger Baby
A larger than average sized baby may not drop into the pelvis before labor since their head might be too big to stretch the pelvic muscles comfortably without the uterine contractions of labor.
This should usually be no cause for concern, though, and there’s no need to induce just yet if your care provider suspects you’re carrying a larger baby.
Studies don’t support induction OR cesarean section for suspected large babies, especially since ultrasounds can be several pounds off on weight estimates.
Breech Or Transverse Positioning
When your baby is breech it means their feet or bottom is pointed down towards your pelvis instead of the head being down.
This happens with about 25% of babies before 28 weeks gestation and in 3-4% of pregnancies by 38 weeks.
As you can see, there’s enough time for your baby to turn. Some babies even turn in labor! It’s important to discuss your options with your care provider if your baby happens to be breech.
Many care providers will insist on scheduling a cesarean section if your baby hasn’t turned by the last month of pregnancy, while others are experienced and comfortable delivering breech babies.
Make sure you know where your doctor or midwife lies on this breech delivery scale so you know what to expect when it comes time to deliver.
And do your research! Some doctors and organizations are arguing that cesarean delivery for breech positioning does not have significantly better outcomes for moms or babies than having a vaginal breech delivery with an experienced care provider.
Transverse positioning, on the other hand, is a different story. Transverse means your baby is sideways in your womb, and neither the head nor the bottom is pointed down. Obviously, there would be no way for your baby to “drop” if they are stuck sideways.
If your baby remains this way until the end of your pregnancy or you are in labor and your baby is discovered to be transverse, then a cesarean section will be necessary to bring your baby earth-side.
Concerned about your baby’s position? Start these simple Spinning Babies exercises today to get your body balanced and your baby in a better position for labor!
What’s The Difference Between “Dropping” And Being “Engaged”?
There are a variety of terms tossed around during pregnancy. Sometimes people seem to speak a whole new language with terms we’re clueless about!
Dropping and Engagement are essentially the same thing, but one is more of a lay term and the other is a technical term.
Your baby “dropping” is a word used to describe the sensations that come with your baby settling lower in the pelvis, along with the appearance of your pregnant belly getting lower.
You might hear your doctor or midwife describe your baby as having “engaged” in your pelvis. This technical term means your baby’s head is on or very near the cervix and lowered to be level with your ischial spines on your pelvis.
There are different “stations” that you might hear your care provider refer to during your last month of pregnancy. When your baby is engaged this is called “zero station”, and labor might begin soon (but soon could mean days to weeks, remember that).
Negative stations are when baby’s head is still above your pelvis, and positive stations are when it has dropped below. +3 station means your baby is crowning, so “zero station” is exactly where your baby needs to be before labor begins.
Your baby will navigate the remaining “positive stations” once labor begins. It’s best for your baby to be at a “favorable station” before attempting labor induction. The less your baby is engaged, the less likely it is that an induction will be successful.
This video is a great way to visualize these stages:
You can learn to feel whether your baby is engaged for yourself by coming to understand the anatomy of your pelvis and how your baby will descend during labor. Taking an out-of-hospital birthing class in your community can help you learn more about this.
Wrapping It Up
Now you know everything you need to know about your baby dropping, and what it means for you in pregnancy and labor.
You know about engagement vs. dropping, all the signs to look out for to know if your baby has dropped and when to talk to your care provider.
Being more informed about how your body works empowers you for a positive pregnancy, birth, and start to your parenting journey with this baby you’re growing.
Keep going and keep learning, you’re doing a great job!