One of the pet peeves I have as an Ob/Gyn is when patients come in inappropriately worried and fretting over something a friend, family member or stranger told them. There are usually two main things that inspire their worry: Either, “You look too small/big to be as far along as you are,” or the dreaded— “Oh honey, you’ve definitely dropped.”
So I’m going to discuss the phenomenon of dropping here.
What I see is this— my patient is worried. Wringing her hands or faking being calm, my patient says, “so umm, do you think I’ve dropped? I saw so and so the other day and she and 17 other people all told me that the baby has dropped.”
Dropping or “lightening” refers to a baby moving a bit lower in the pelvic canal. As the baby settles into the pelvic canal, this can sometimes be visually appreciated with the top of someone’s uterus (the fundus) looking like it’s farther from someone’s breasts. This can make women feel like they need to pee more and simultaneously feel like they can breathe more easily.
Dropping carries no predictive value.
It’s not a signal of labor or any positive or negative outcomes. Similar to a mucus plug, which can happen hours or weeks before delivery, dropping or lightening can also happen hours or weeks before delivery. Let me repeat, dropping carries no predictive value.
Just as a horoscope is not predictive of anything with any certainty, neither is your mucus plug, your cervical dilation or your dropped baby. Isolated from the larger context of labor, they are small pieces to the puzzle that make up the pregnancy experience, but they don’t mean anything in particular.
However, in contrast, when you have the combination of strong contractions every 5 minutes for an hour, +/- breaking your bag of water, +/- a bunch of mucus comes out, +/- your baby feels lower in your pelvis, you definitely could be in labor or heading that direction soon.
So, let this be a PSA for the world: If someone tells you that you or your baby have dropped, pay them no mind, smile, say “Thanks, you’re right!” and don’t let it bug you. If you are tempted to tell a pregnant woman that her baby has dropped, please take a deep breath, count to 50 and come up with something else to say. “You look great, how’s it going?” is almost always appropriate.
Our next reco: Your Vagina Is Not A Crystal Ball