Moms are often curious about the term “baby dropping.” Let’s explore what it means when the baby drops in your belly, why it’s important for birth, and what you can expect to feel.
What Does It Mean When The Baby “Drops”?
“Baby dropping” or “lightening” is a term used when your baby moves lower into your pelvis as a preparation for birth. It’s a sign that changes are happening within your body to ready the baby for the birth process.
Why Is It Important for Birth?
This is an important step for many reasons, including:
- Alignment for Birth: When the baby drops, his/her body aligns more closely with the birth canal. This sets the stage for a smooth birth and for the baby to navigate through the pelvis and birth canal during labor.
- Cervical Ripening and Effacement: The pressure of the baby’s head against the cervix can help it to soften, thin (efface), and dilate (open). This is a key part of preparing the cervix for childbirth.
When Does the Baby Drop?
Lightening typically happens a few weeks before you go into labor, especially if this is your first pregnancy. If you’ve given birth before, it might not happen until labor begins.
What Does It Feel Like When the Baby Drops In Your Belly?
Of course, each body is different. But here are some very common experiences you may feel when the baby drops:
- Increased Pelvic Pressure: As the baby’s head moves lower into your pelvis later in pregnancy, you might feel increased pressure in your lower abdomen and pelvic area. This can feel like a heaviness, fullness, or a dull ache that will likely increase after a long day of standing or walking.
- Swelling: You may notice increased swelling and edema in your legs and feet, though you should always consult your doctor if you have significant or rapid swelling during pregnancy. And if you have hemorrhoids or varicose veins in your legs or vulva, you might notice some extra throbbing or discomfort.
- Increased Vaginal Secretions: All this increased pressure causes congestion in the muscous membranes of the vagina, leading it increased secretions.
- Easier Breathing: You may find breathing a bit easier when the baby drops because there’s less pressure on your diaphragm. This often brings relief, especially if you’ve been feeling short of breath.
- More Frequent Urination: With the baby’s head pressing against your bladder, you might feel the need to pee more often.
- Change in Belly Shape: Your belly might appear to be sagging a bit or sitting lower.
- Back Pain: Some women experience back pain due to the baby’s position and the additional pressure it places on the spine and muscles in the back.
- Decrease in Heartburn: If you’ve been struggling with heartburn, you might notice some relief as the baby drops, reducing pressure on your stomach.
- Different Fetal Movements: You may notice a change in how you feel your baby move. The kicks might feel different or be in different areas than before.
What Should You Do?
There’s not much you need to do when baby drops, however, it is a signal that labor is getting closer. With that in mind, you can:
- Prep Physically & Emotionally for Birth: Be sure that you’re well-prepared for labor and birth. If you haven’t done so already, consider enrolling in a high-quality natural childbirth class, like the Kopa Birth® Online Birth Course.
- Keep Moving: Gentle exercise like walking can help relieve any discomfort you might feel as the baby sits lower in your pelvis.
- Practice Core & Pelvic Floor Exercises: Safe core exercises can help strengthen the muscles for birth.
- Rest Well: Make sure to rest and sleep adequately. Baby will be here soon!
- Get some Extra Support: Pregnancy support belts can be a great option to help brace some of baby’s weight. If you feel throbbing pressure in your perineum (vulva and vaginal area), consider buying a perineal support belt.
Kopa Birth’s online birthing classes allow you to prepare for natural childbirth in the comfort of your own home, 24/7. Enroll today in our free online childbirth class to learn more about preparing for natural childbirth.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (2021). How to Tell When Labor Begins FAQ. Available from: https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/how-to-tell-when-labor-begins
Davidson, M., London, M., Ladewigh, P. (2012). Olds’ Maternal-Newborn Nursing & Women’s Health Across the Lifespan, 9th Edition.