The low-down on lightening

Despite what it sounds like, lightening during a pregnancy doesn't involve losing any weight or changing the color of your skin. In fact, lightening refers to the process of your unborn baby moving down into your pelvis to prepare for labor. The experience is different for all women, but here are some basic facts to educate yourself.

Why does it happen?
At the end of your third trimester, your baby will begin to drop lower in your abdomen, toward your pelvis. This better prepares your little one for moving through your cervix. This can happen two to four weeks before giving birth for first-time mothers, but those who have had children may only experience it right before labor.

What will you feel?
Lightening gets its name from the feeling that mothers experience when it happens. Because there's more room up near your chest cavity, you may feel more comfortable breathing and you might even experience less heartburn. You could also notice that the shape of your bump has changed, shifting down and forward. While it does offer a bit of relief, you should know that there will likely be more pressure on your bladder, which may result in more trips to the bathroom.

How does your doctor measure it?
During the last month of your pregnancy, your doctor will begin to estimate how far your baby has moved down into your pelvis. The stages of this movement are measured in what's known as stations. When the station is -3, your baby's head is above your pelvis. At 0, the head is at the bottom of your pelvis. At +3, your little one's head is starting to emerge from the birth canal!

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