Motherhood & Parenting
By the end of the third trimester of the gestation period, the baby in the foetal position inside the womb usually turns their head down towards the mouth of the vagina. This usually happens between the 32nd and the 36th week of pregnancy. The baby turning head down makes the labour during childbirth shorter and the process of delivery easier and safer for pregnant women.
Read on to understand why is it necessary and important for an unborn baby to turn into the head-down position before labour.
During childbirth, a baby moves at an angle through his mother’s pelvis. This position makes it easier for the mother to push the baby out from the womb. Moreover, if the baby is in the head-down position before delivery, it reduces the chances of complications during birth.
These complications, otherwise, may have a lifelong impact on the child. The labour is generally shorter and less painful if the baby is in the head-down position. This head-down foetal position is considered as ideal and free from risks during delivery.
When the baby is in this head-down foetal position, the baby’s head exerts pressure on the mother’s cervix. This helps in widening and stimulating the cervix to produce essential hormones that are vital for a mother’s cervix. In a way, the head-down position prepares the mother’s body for delivery. In case of natural deliveries, the baby in its head down position naturally reaches the bottom of the mother’s pelvis.
This automatically shifts the baby’s head to the broadest part of the mother’s pelvis. This also makes it easier for the baby’s head to slip easily under the pubic bone of the mother for a smooth and safe birthing process.
The most favourable and safe head-down position a baby can get into is the cephalic presentation with the occipital anterior position. At this position, the baby’s head is down towards the mother’s vagina and the face and front of the body towards the back.
At this position, the baby’s spine faces the mother’s tummy. This head-down position makes sure that when the baby is delivered, the head of the baby pops out first (making it easier for the baby to breathe.)
Babies usually turn into the head-down position during the third trimester. Most babies turn their head down between week 32 and 36 of pregnancy. If you are wondering when to expect baby turning head down, then you must know that it depends on certain factors: both internal and external.
Some babies turn into the occipital anterior position after the onset of labour (just before the delivery.)
However, the cephalic presentation is present only after the 36th week. Anyway, the ideal time for the baby to turn into the head-down position is between the 32nd and the 36th week.
There are several ways to determine or find out if a baby is in the head-down position in the womb or not.
Ultrasound or Foetal Doppler
Doctors can usually figure out the position that the baby is in by feeling the abdomen. The Obstetrics and Gynaecologists either use a foetal doppler or suggest performing an ultrasound to determine the foetal position of the baby.
Belly-mapping is another method to figure out if the baby has turned head-down yet or not. This elaborate method includes a 3-step process of feeling the abdomen and the baby’s movements to determine if the baby has reached the head-down position or not.
Instinct and pressing
On gentle pressing around the pubic bone, the position of the baby can easily be determined. If something hard and round is felt, it is most probably the baby’s head. However, many pregnant women mistake the baby’s bottom with the head. Keep in mind, the bottom is softer than the head.
Listening to the heartbeat
Ask your partner or somebody you trust to listen to the baby’s heartbeat. If you hear it around your lower abdomen, there are high chances the baby has turned into the head-down position.
Flutters and hiccups
If light flutters and hiccups are felt in the lower abdomen and powerful kicks higher up the belly, it is most probably because the baby has turned into the head-down position. The baby’s hands and fingers are the reason behind the light flutters and the kicks are from the little movements of the baby’s knees and feet.
If you are already 36 weeks pregnant and the baby has still not turned into the head-down position, there are certain steps that you can follow to help your baby get into the head-down position.
Disclaimer: These steps are not medically approved but are believed to work by many pregnant women. We suggest you to avoid these steps or consult a doctor before performing these methods. During the 36th week, the baby is already fully developed and no risks should be taken. However, if the doctor (the gynaecologist whom you have been consulting throughout the pregnancy) gives a heads up, go ahead and try these exercises under supervision.
Your soon to be born babe, when turns itself in the head down foetal position, will just prepare and expedite the process of the mother and baby reunion!