When will my baby drop?

pregnant woman holding her belly
Photo credit: Katie Rain for BabyCenter

If you're a first-time mom, your baby will probably drop two to four weeks before labor, perhaps even earlier. If you've had a baby before, your baby may not drop until your labor starts. It's impossible to predict exactly when this will happen, because each pregnancy is unique.

When your baby "drops," it means they descend into your pelvis in preparation for labor. It doesn't mean labor is about to happen, though! Carrying your baby lower isn't a sign that you're about to go into labor, nor does carrying your baby higher mean that labor is far off.

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Usually a baby's head enters the pelvis first, but if the baby is breech, their butt or feet will be settling into place instead. Once your baby drops down and settles into your pelvis, their position is called "engaged."

The process is also called "lightening," because it creates space between your breasts and your pelvis – you may actually feel lighter.

Baby dropping signs and symptoms

illustration of lightening

You'll probably be able to tell when your baby has dropped because some pregnancy complaints may get worse while others improve. Here are some signs that your baby has dropped into your pelvis:

  • You need to urinate even more often than before because of increased pressure on your bladder.
  • You have increasing discomfort when you walk. (You may waddle.)
  • You may have back pain as your baby puts increased pressure on the muscles and joints in your lower back.
  • You may develop hemorrhoids (or they may get worse, if you have them) as increased pressure affects the veins of the rectum.
  • You may be able to eat a little more without feeling uncomfortably full now that there's less pressure on your stomach.
  • Your breathing feels easier.
  • You may get some relief from any heartburn you've been experiencing.
  • You may notice a change in how your belly looks because you're carrying lower.
  • You may lose your mucus plug as your baby puts more pressure on your cervix.

What does it feel like when my baby drops?

When your baby drops, you may feel it all at once, as a noticeable downward movement. Or you may not even notice. You're likely to feel "lighter," though, now that there's more space and your baby is no longer pressing on your diaphragm.

At the same time, you may feel pressure deep in your pelvis, as your baby's head settles in.

If you feel an increase in pelvic pressure or the sensation that your baby is pushing down before 37 weeks, call your healthcare provider so they can make sure you aren't in preterm labor

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How long after my baby drops does labor start?

Although your baby dropping indicates that your body is getting ready for delivery, it doesn't predict when labor will start. It may be weeks before the big day.

Still, lightening is one of many changes that may signal upcoming labor. Other changes include loss of the mucus plug, rupture of membranes (water breaking), and contractions. You may or may not have these changes before your labor starts, but each is a possible sign.

Learn more:

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BabyCenter's editorial team is committed to providing the most helpful and trustworthy pregnancy and parenting information in the world. When creating and updating content, we rely on credible sources: respected health organizations, professional groups of doctors and other experts, and published studies in peer-reviewed journals. We believe you should always know the source of the information you're seeing. Learn more about our editorial and medical review policies.

ACOG. 2022. How to tell when labor begins. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. a new window [Accessed December 2022]

Kaiser Permanente. 2022. Pregnancy: Dropping (Lightening). a new window [Accessed December 2022]

Texas Children's Hospital. Changes during pregnancy: What's normal and what's not?’s-normal-and-what’s-notOpens a new window [Accessed December 2022]

Karen Miles
Karen Miles is a writer and an expert on pregnancy and parenting who has contributed to BabyCenter for more than 20 years. She's passionate about bringing up-to-date, useful information to parents so they can make good decisions for their families. Her favorite gig of all is being "Mama Karen" to four grown children and "Nana" to nine grandkids.