Now that you’re in the final weeks of your third trimester, you might have had people asking you if your baby has dropped yet. It might sound like a weird thing to say – and can also be a weird feeling when it happens – but it’s a pretty valid question. The baby drops when their head moves down lower into the pelvis and is getting into position ahead of the birth.
Your baby dropping is also often called ‘lightening’ or being ‘engaged’ and can feel like a relief on some of your organs that have been under serious pressure from your pregnant belly. Once the baby has dropped you may find that you can breathe easier because your poor, squished diaphragm now has a little more room to, well, breathe.
Baby dropping is a positive sign and can often (but not always) mean labour is near. But as with anything in pregnancy, this will ultimately depend on both mum and baby, as everyone is different. So, labour could still be weeks away yet.
Your doctor or midwife should be able to tell you if your baby drops or is engaged, however, there are some signs you can look out for.
When will my baby drop?
The baby can drop or become fully engaged anytime from a couple of weeks before birth, to a couple of hours. However, some women never experience it at all. There is no exact week that women will experience their baby drop, but typically it will be some time in the last few weeks before go time.
Mothers going through their first pregnancy will often feel their baby drop this sooner than women who have had babies before, as their body needs more time to adjust and prepare for the birth.
If your baby is breech you may not experience this but even if your baby is in position, you may not notice much of a change, if at all.
What does it feel like when the baby drops?
Some women describe the feeling as an exact moment where they felt a release of pressure on their organs and a subsequent “heaviness” down below in their pelvic region (say hello to your baby’s head!). Whereas others will notice it as a more gradual easing.
Often when the baby drops you might feel less pressure on your organs up high in the abdomen, but then increased pressure down into your pelvis and bladder, thanks to your baby’s head.
Some women say the baby dropping feels like there is a watermelon or bowling ball between their legs (cue: the waddle) and that the baby might just fall right out. But don’t worry this won’t happen (or would be extremely rare as you would have to miss all the subsequent signs of labour and contractions).
Does it hurt when the baby drops?
We’ll get into this more later on, but the feeling of your baby dropping shouldn’t be too painful. The pressure could be uncomfortable, and you might get a little “zing” as your baby drops (sometimes called lightening). Anything more and it’s worth giving your doctor a ring.
How does my doctor know that the baby has dropped?
Your doctor will be able to work out what position the baby is in using a fetal stations scale. A five-point scale is the most common. When the baby drops, you’ll probably go from a -5 on the scale to a 0. To give you an idea, once the baby crowns you should be at a +5 on the scale.
So how far off is labour?
There’s no exact science to say how far off labour might be. Every woman will have a different experience and sometimes the baby drops hours before labour but some may still have weeks before they see any action – or their baby!
8 Signs of baby dropping:
1. You can breathe easier
When the baby drops lower into your pelvis it should release pressure on your diaphragm which might feel like a literal weight off your chest. Annnd breathe.
2. More pressure down below
While you should feel less pressure up high in your abdomen, the pay off will be increased pressure down low. As your baby’s head settles into the pelvis you will feel heavy and potentially uncomfortable between your legs.
Some women just find this uncomfortable but not painful, but some women do experience severe discomfort or pain at this stage
3. The waddle kicks in
You’ve surely seen other pregnant women with the waddle, and wondered if/when you might get it? Well if you haven’t already, once the baby drops chances are you’ll be waddling about until the baby comes out (and maybe for a few days after, not gonna lie).
4. More discharge
As the cervix prepares for labour it will start thinning itself out, and this involves ridding itself of the mucous plug. Some women will lose the mucus plug very noticeably, while others may experience it more as increased discharge.
5. More frequent trips to the toilet
Just when you thought you couldn’t possibly go to the toilet any more, your baby drops and there you are. The baby dropping tends to put even more pressure on the bladder so you’ll likely need to go more often than ever.
6. Pelvic pain
Increased pelvic pain can be a sign your baby has dropped, as there is more pressure on your organs than ever now. As your body prepares to give birth the hormone relaxin helps to soften and relax the muscles in that area so that baby can make it through the birth canal. Some mild pain and discomfort are common, but if you are worried always speak to your doctor.
7. Lower back pain or ache
As with pelvic pain, your baby dropping might mean you might notice more pain or discomfort in your lower back due to the increased pressure down low courtesy of your baby’s head. Try to take it easy and make sure you have good, supportive pillows on hand.
8. Noticeably lower belly
An obvious sign of your baby dropping can be the appearance of your belly when you look at it side on. Some women will notice an obvious drop and change in shape and appearance.
Even though the feeling of the baby dropping can be a strange one, and can bring with it some new uncomfortable side-effects, remember this is your body doing what it needs to do to prepare for labour. However, if you are concerned about the pain or discomfort or experience any bleeding or cramping, always call your doctor immediately. Most of all, get excited because you will be holding your baby in your arms very soon!