At the end of the third trimester, the baby settles, or drops lower,
into the mother's pelvis. This is known as dropping or lightening.
Dropping is not a good predictor of when labour will begin. In
first-time mothers, dropping usually occurs 2 to 4 weeks before delivery, but
it can happen earlier. In women who have already had children, the baby may not
drop until labour begins.
You may or may not notice a change in the shape of your abdomen after
dropping. You may notice that your breathing becomes easier and heartburn
occurs less frequently after dropping occurs. But the increased pressure
on your bladder after dropping occurs may make you have the urge to urinate
Usually the baby's head is the first (presenting) part to enter the
pelvis, but the feet or a shoulder can present first.
During the last month, your doctor will estimate how far
the baby's head has moved down into (engaged) the pelvis. This is measured in
"stations." A baby is at -3 station when the head is above the pelvis and at 0 station when the head is at the
bottom of the pelvis (fully engaged). The baby is at +3 station when the head is beginning to emerge from the birth canal
ByHealthwise Staff Primary Medical ReviewerKathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine Thomas M. Bailey, MD - Family Medicine Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine Specialist Medical ReviewerKirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology