A lot of people will ask you in the last month of your pregnancy (when you’re massive and waddling and obviously very close to the end) if you’ve "dropped" yet.
And if it’s your first pregnancy, you might look at them strangely and wonder if it is a new type of drug that’s somehow recommended for expecting mothers.
During my pregnancies, I didn’t feel any of my babies dropping, so don’t worry if you don’t go through this yourself. We will look at what it means, what it feels like, and what it’s not, so if and when it happens to you, you’ll know what’s going on.
Feeling your baby dropping, settling or lightening commonly happens two to four weeks before labor starts in a first-time mom. It is the baby moving down into your pelvis in readiness for coming out, but when you feel it, this does not mean labor is imminent, so don’t rush out the door with your hospital bag just yet.
If you are a second-time mom, you may not feel dropping at all. Baby may just drop as such during labor. This is because when your first baby drops, it is part of a process of stretching your pelvic muscles for labor.
In your second and subsequent pregnancies, you’re already warmed up ready to go. Your baby also may not drop if he is very big, if there are twins in there, or if he is breech.
Also, your baby does not need to drop for labor to start. The increasing contractions will gently push your baby down to the where he needs to be. Having your baby drop, and having it become "engaged" are often confused as one and the same thing.
They are two definitions that will usually occur at the same time; dropping is more about how you feel, this is a lay term, whether your baby’s head has engaged is a technical term.
"Engaged" is a medical term your doctor will use to describe when your child’s head lowered to a certain point in your pelvis called the ischial spines. Generally, you will need a doctor to tell you the baby is engaged, but when this happens, labor is closer.
When the baby’s head is engaged, this is considered to be at zero station, ready for labor but labor has not yet started. If you think of your pelvis as having a petrol gauge, engaged is the zero station, -3 is still above your pelvis, +3 is when your baby is crowning.
Babies have been known to fluctuate above and below zero station a little, so don’t be worry if he goes down and then goes back up a little.
Many women, including me, never recall feeling their baby drop!
Obviously, it happens regardless. With some women, it is a more sudden, pronounced movement that they very clearly feel. With others, it is a lot more gentle and gradual and therefore hard to notice.
And as we said above some women never drop or don’t drop until after labor starts. If it’s happening to you, you will likely suddenly feel a lot more comfortable, as the dropping of your baby frees up room in your upper belly for all your organs.
However, you may also feel new discomfort lower down. Below are 10 common sensations you could feel when your baby drops:
You may also feel frustration at the number of random strangers and extended family members who tell you you’ve dropped when they have no idea what they’re talking about.
Also, ignore those people criticizing that you haven’t yet dropped when you should have, as best you can, do not let this bother you.
Feeling your baby drop is not yet labor necessarily. It still may be another few weeks away. You should be calm but alert for any other indications that labor has started such as your waters breaking or contractions strengthening or becoming regular.
Slight or intermittent discomfort or pain at this time should not be of concern to you. However, constant, severe or increasingly regular pain is another story and you should seek advice from your doctor.
You should watch out for any other symptoms including fever, severe nausea and diarrhea, and bleeding or sudden fluid loss.
Your baby dropping will not generally cause your waters to break prematurely. There is not commonly a danger of this happening. Your waters may break early for a number of reasons.
However, if it does, don’t worry so much right now about why it happened and seek immediate medical attention. Having the waters break means your amniotic sac is broken and the baby is no longer protected from infection.
As with a lot of experiences of pregnancy, the feeling of your baby dropping may be different for every woman and with every pregnancy, and all of them are normal. Your baby may or may not drop. You may or may not notice when it happens.
Try very hard not to worry about it, and ignore silly comments from random strangers as best as possibly can. Your baby will drop if and when he’s ready, and your labor will start sometime soon, again usually when your body is ready. Breathe, relax and make the most of any peace you have now while it lasts.
Amy Duncan is the founder of KindMommy, a blog where she's providing helpful information about pregnancy and many useful tips for young parents. Besides writing, Amy loves to cook and travel with her friends and family. You can also find Amy on Twitter (@AmyKindmommy).