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? Sounds like an odd thing to say, but don’t worry the baby can’t fall out. The baby drops when their head moves down lower into the pelvis and is getting into position ahead of the birth.
Baby dropping is also often referred to as ‘lightening’ or being ‘engaged’ and often feels like a relief on some of your organs that have been under serious pressure from your growing belly.
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. Sorry to say labour could still be weeks away yet.
Your doctor or midwife should be able to tell you if your baby is dropped or engaged, however there are some signs you can look out for too.
When will my baby drop?
The baby can drop or become 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 women experience the baby dropping, but typically it will be some time in the last few weeks before the baby arrives.
First-time mothers will often experience 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. 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 more pressure down into your pelvis and bladder.
Some women say it feels like there is a watermelon or bowling ball between their legs 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).
So how far off is labour?
Again there is no exact measure or rule to say how far off labour might be. It will be different for every woman, some may drop hours before labour but some may still have weeks before they see any action.
Signs your baby has dropped:
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.
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 possibly uncomfortable between your legs.
Some women just find this uncomfortable but not painful, however some women do experience severe discomfort or pain at this stage
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.
As the cervix prepares for labour it will start thinning itself out, and with 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.
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. When baby drops they tend to put even more pressure on the bladder so you’ll likely need to go more often than ever. Remember it won’t be forever and your baby will be here very soon!
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. So some mild pain and discomfort is common, but if you are worried always speak to your doctor.
Lower back pain or ache
As with pelvic pain, you might notice more pain or discomfort in your lower back due to the increased pressure down low.
Noticeably lower belly
An obvious sign can be the appearance of your belly when you look at it side on. Some women will notice an obvious drop and change in the 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. You will be holding your baby in your arms very soon!