The thing about pregnancy is that it comes with it's own unique language. You wouldn't be the first expectant mother to feel like she needs to take a dictionary along to her appointments!
You may be wondering what it means to be told your baby's head has engaged. As you journey through the third trimester of your pregnancy you may experience a feeling of being 'full up' and find it more difficult than usual to breathe deeply. This is thanks to baby now pushing up into the space where your lungs and stomach are! However, as your due date approaches you may feel these symptoms ease, or feel a heaviness in your pelvis - this is known as your baby's head engaging, and essentially it means that your baby is in the correct position for birth, so that their head has moved down to sit in the pelvis.
It is important to remember that as with every part of pregnancy, this may not be experienced by every mother. It is common for the baby to drop down during labour especially if it is your second or third baby. If you have concerns, ask your midwife. She will be able to tell you if your baby's head has engaged or not.
Your midwife records your baby's head engagement in measurements of fifths. So if you read 5/5 or 4/5, this means that the head is not engaged yet. Notes of 3/5, 2/5 or less means your baby's head is engaged.
What our midwife says...
"Unfortunately the timing of when your babys head engages - descends - into the pelvis does not indicate when you’ll go into labour," explains midwife Anne Richley.
"Although most women with a first baby will be told by their midwife that the head has engaged by 38 weeks, this has no bearing on when labour will start, as many babies move into the pelvis much earlier than this."
"Many women find that the baby's head doesn’t engage until they are actually in labour, and the power of the contractions helps to push the babys head deeper into the pelvis. Once the head is well down and engaged you may feel that your bump has ‘dropped’ and looks lower in appearance."
Factors that can affect when your baby's head engages include...
- If your baby is in a posterior position, his back to your back, it may be harder for him to engage.
- If your baby has lots of room to move he is less likely to engage. He might be enjoying swimming in lots of amniotic fluid!
- The shape of your pelvis or position of the placenta.
- If you are expecting a big baby it is more likely that your baby's head will engage when contractions begin.
Real mum’s tell all...
Discussions about your baby's head engaging are always a hot topic in our Forums. Check out what other mums have to say about their experience...
"Im 37+6 and at last appointment (37+1) baby had not engaged. Midwife said it makes no difference to when labour will be as some babies just dont engage until labour starts. She said first contractions will pull baby down." says Lil-Betty-Boop
"I've been getting the same sensation since Sunday (on the same day, my mum and my nan commented that my bump was looking lower). Feels like there's a heavy pressure down there! At first, I thought it might be constipation (sorry, TMI) but everything's fine on that front. Will be interesting to see what the midwife reckons on Tuesday!" says RedHead85
"the mw can feel if baby's head is engaged, they'll palpate around ur pubic bone to see how much of baby's head they can feel...so don't worry ur mw will notice because she'll be actively checking for it, and she'll tell u. x" says WoWBabies
"I've heard of babies engaging as early as 28 weeks. Don't actually know these people but have heard from friends that they know people it's happened to. With mine it's be later on 35 weeks plus and I just feel heavier, there is a push on the pelvic area that can't go unmissed!" says Bubblez
What did you think when you were told your baby's head was engaged? Did you worry that it hadn't? Tell us below, head to our Facebook page or tweet us @Baby_Expert
Also, don't miss... our amazing week-by-week guide to your baby's growth
Compiled by Catherine Hudson