People may ask you if your baby has dropped yet, or your provider may say that baby has dropped — what does that mean? We obviously don’t want to go around dropping babies so is it a good thing or a bad thing?
How do I know so much about babies dropping? Hi, I’m Hilary – I’m The Pregnancy Nurse®. Not only have I been a nurse since 1997 — with 20 years of labor and delivery experience, I’ve also been pregnant three times of my own, so I know how scary and confusing all these words are.
Before we get into baby “dropping” isn’t the same as actually dropping a baby. It’s just about baby moving deeper into your pelvis. No dropping babies around here!
Symptoms of Baby Dropping:
The three things people feel most often:
- Able to breathe easier, as baby is out of their lung space
- Pressure on their bladder, needing to pee more often
- Pressure in their pelvis making walking (and life) difficult
Is 35 Weeks Too Early for Baby to Drop?
Baby “dropping” isn’t something that we “check” for before delivery. It is mostly reported by patients (and sometimes you can tell if someone is carrying “high” or “low”. Just because baby has “dropped” (or lowered in your pelvis) doesn’t mean that labor is near. Symptoms like this are always good to talk with your provider about, but what they mean can vary case by case.
You may notice baby drops earlier in a subsequent pregnancy than your first pregnancy as baby already has a path down there.
As providers we measure something called baby’s “station” — which is how high or low they are in your pelvis (in comparison to your sit bones).
Yes, this is sort of complicated, so let’s talk more about it….
But real quick — if you’re around 35 weeks, have you taken your prenatal class? Now is an AMAZING time to get it done and still have it fresh in your mind for delivery — I recommend this one! Prenatal classes have been proven to decrease both anxiety and labor interventions!
What does ‘lightening’ or ‘baby dropping’ mean?
This whole conversation is somewhat of an “old wive’s tale” in that one minute baby is high and then, BOOM baby drops into your pelvis and “baby has dropped”.
Most often baby engaging into your pelvis (that’s probably what people mean when they say “dropping”) happens over time, not all at once. BUT a lot of pregnant people do report suddenly feeling like they can breathe, or that they have to pee more. And that can be a symptom of baby’s movement into the pelvis.
Yes, baby may drop all at once, but most often it happens over time.
Now, the term “lightening” is more confusing to me. It’s not something I’ve used or talked about as a nurse much. That being said I do talk a LOT about lightening crotch here on The Pregnancy Nurse, and there could be a “zap” feeling in your crotch when baby lowers in.
And you may tend to feel that pain between your legs more often once baby engages in your pelvis as the bones are shifting.
I have to pee a lot, is it just baby dropping?
Gosh, that’s a confusing one during pregnancy. So, having to pee frequently isn’t unusual during pregnancy but if you have other symptoms (or are just concerned) like:
- Blood in your urine
- Difficulty peeing
- Feel like you have to pee so bad, but then only a little comes out
- Burning when you pee
- Pain around your urethral opening (where the pee comes out)
You should talk with your provider. If you have any concerns about your bladder talk with them. They can easily do a test to see if you might have a UTI (or bladder infection) in the office.
Those aren’t unusual during pregnancy, and we’d want to treat it as it can put you into preterm labor and also be super annoying and painful.
Does baby always drop before you go into labor?
Nope. Personally, I carry my babies VERY HIGH until right before I have them. I have no idea why, but I can’t breathe at all until those last few minutes before they leave my body.
Some people carry babies low through much of their pregnacy and may never feel that “dropping” feeling either.
Definitely not a requirement of labor. However, the lower the baby is labor usually progresses quicker (but all my babies were delivered vaginally). If you’re looking for the signs of labor << check out that post!
What does lightening feel like?
Some may feel an intense pressure in their pelvis that has suddenly come on.
Your bladder may feel extra pressure from all of it and need you to pee more frequently (yay, right)
You may be able to take a deep breath and notice you have more room to breathe (less pressure on your lungs and diaphragm, more pressure on your bladder).
How long after my baby drops does labor start?
This varies person to person and baby dropping isn’t particularly a sign of labor itself, but it does show that labor is coming soon. Sort of like losing your mucus plug. It isn’t a sign that labor begins.
There are no peer-reviewed studies on baby “dropping” and when labor will begin.
BTW is you’re close to the end of your pregnancy, make sure you’re getting ready for labor by both taking a prenatal class, and packing your hospital bag:
How will I know if my baby’s head is engaged?
Most often it is shown by your doctor or midwife doing Leopold’s maneuvers at a check up (where they feel baby’s positioning in your abdomen), or them checking your cervix (a pelvic exam) to see where baby’s head is positioned in your pelvis.
You can also tell from the symptoms I’ve talked about above, but to know if the head is really engaged an experienced provider is your best bet.
What symptoms should I not ignore at 35 weeks pregnant?
At 35 weeks pregnant, there are certain symptoms that should not be ignored as they could indicate a serious problem. We hope that you are not going into labor yet (although I don’t think they would try to stop labor) — so be sure to keep an eye out for these signs:
- vaginal bleeding
- severe abdominal pain
- blurred vision
- swelling in the face or other body parts (especially if it comes on suddenly)
- reduced fetal movement (Be SURE to do your kick counts throughout your third trimester)
- contractions that are regular and painful.
It is important to seek medical attention if any of these symptoms occur, as they could indicate conditions such as preeclampsia, placental abruption, or preterm labor. Additionally, if the mother-to-be experiences symptoms such as fever, cough, or shortness of breath, it is important to consult a healthcare provider as they could also be signs of potentially serious conditions such as a respiratory infection.
Prenatal Care at 35 Weeks
Regular prenatal care appointments can help ensure that potential problems are identified and addressed early on. It is always better to err on the side of caution and seek medical attention if any symptoms are concerning or unusual.
It can seem really simple that the things they do at prenatal check-ups and doing kick counts can make a difference in you and your baby’s health, but they really can. Simple things like those, and taking a prenatal class really can make a difference.
I recommend The Online Prenatal Class for Couples. In just a few hours you can get prepared, and feel less anxious about your birth (and do it with your partner).
And, if you’re not quite sure you’re ready for that whole thing, check out my free prenatal class. It’s your first step toward getting in the driver’s seat of your birth.
Don’t miss my super helpful post all about the signs of labor. Great info for pregnancy!
- About the Author
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A nurse since 1997, she has worked in various fields including pediatrics, geriatrics & hospice.
She has 20 years of labor and delivery experience in the San Jose, CA and Phoenix, AZ areas.