Pregnancy can be a difficult time, one with a tumultuous amount of questions and disproportionately few answers available. Questions about labour are especially hard to tackle, and there are few sources which detail the various intricacies of labour, and the possibilities of what can happen during the moment of reckoning.
Every expectant mother might have heard the term ‘the baby’s head is engaged’, but few know what it means. Let us take a look at what this means, its symptoms and more about this common occurrence.
Baby’s Head Engaged- What does it Mean?
When people say that the head of the baby is engaged, it means that the head of the child has lodged, or engaged in the pelvis of the mother. This occurs late in the third trimester, close to the day of labour. Mothers are the first to notice since they find that they are able to breathe easier and eat larger amounts without feeling full so quickly. This is because the position of the baby has changed in the uterus, and it is pressing towards entry into the world.
Why does it Happen?
A ligament called broad ligament is present around the uterus and carries out the function of supporting it during pregnancy and the growth of the baby. This ligament loosens and softens towards the end of the third trimester, resulting in the baby being able to drop down deeper into your belly. Normally, the head of the baby presses down towards the opening- however, the hips move lower in the case of breech babies, into the new space created due to the ligament. Engaging of the head of the baby occurs only in one among three babies.
When does it Happen?
Babies tend to move down around the 34th to the 36th week of the pregnancy, in most cases. However, in two out of three cases, this does not occur until labour.
- Babies who lie with their backs against the back of the mother find it hard to engage, and consequently, labour becomes tougher.
- If the baby has plenty of space or is lying transverse or obliquely, engagement does not usually occur.
- If you are expecting multiple babies or if the baby is large for his gestational age, this is less likely to occur before labour.
- Other factors affecting the engagement of the head include placenta position, the shape of the pelvis and the number of fibroids in the uterus.
How to Tell if the Baby is Engaged in the Pelvis?
There are many baby engaged symptoms that occur if the baby has dropped, so it is not especially hard to notice or find. Mothers most often find people around them noticing the change, and informing them that the baby has dropped, or that you will be going into labour soon as the head has dropped. You will find that you are able to breathe a lot easier, and also eat more without feeling full. However, sitting for long periods may turn out to be uncomfortable, and your gait also changes into a waddle. You may also experience back pain and stronger false labour contractions.
Once your Baby is Engaged, how Long does it Take to Go into Labour?
There is no exact answer to this question, as this time has a very little effect on the time of labour of the mother. The time between the engagement and the labour can vary enormously, even between the different pregnancies of the same woman. Doctors say that it is not true that an engaged baby is a sign that labour will occur sooner, nor is it problematic if the engagement does not happen at all. However, it is a good sign of smooth labour if the head of the baby goes down in the third trimester, even if the head is not engaged properly.
What if Baby Engages too Soon or does not Engage at all?
Frequent pregnancies, a small baby or breech baby, can cause engagement of the head sooner. This could essentially warn you that the baby will be born premature, before full term. Sometimes, the pelvis may be small or the baby’s head too big for engagement to occur- this does not indicate any problem in the pregnancy. However, if the baby is lying transversely or obliquely, engagement might not occur during the pregnancy, and vaginal birth must not be attempted in this case.
How to Engage your Unborn Baby’s Head in the Pelvis?
People come up with all sorts of exercises for a baby’s head to engage, but the question as to whether they actually work remains unanswered. The best things to promote engagement of the head of the child is to relax and try to stay as comfortable as possible, during the later stages of pregnancy.
Will you Need a C-Section in this Case?
There is a misconception among mothers that they will need a C-section if the head of the baby is not engaged adequately. This is wrong- in many cases, the head of the baby does not engage until the mother is far into labour. A caesarean delivery is necessary only if the baby is too big for your pelvis or if you have a pelvis abnormality, and is done after the doctor deems it to be necessary for smooth labour. The baby’s head engaging has nothing to do with a C-section.
Engagement of the head of the baby is a frequent occurrence in mothers, as almost one in three mothers witness their child engaging. However, it is not compulsory for the head to engage during pregnancy, as this occurs only during labour in most cases- nothing to worry about, either way!