Lightening is the medical name for the baby dropping lower into a woman's pelvis during the late stages of pregnancy. According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the baby can drop anytime during the last few weeks of pregnancy or the last few hours before labor begins. The signs that the baby has dropped into the pelvis are easy to recognize. Some women may even change in appearance.
Breathing is Easier
For most of the pregnancy, a pregnant woman feels as if breathing is difficult. This is due to a number of things, including increased blood volume that slows oxygen circulation and the expansion of the uterus beneath the rib cage. When the baby drops deeper into the pelvis, the pressure on the diaphragm is relieved, according to the American Pregnancy Association.
Frequent urination begins early in pregnancy and often gets worse toward the end. When lightening occurs, the baby's weight pushes downward, causing pressure on the bladder.
Even though the baby is relatively small, the shift in position can cause a woman's body to change shape. Women who were carrying the baby high, or just beneath the breasts and rib cage, will notice the bulk of her pregnancy belly resting at her waistline or below. Women who were carrying mostly in the center may not notice a physical change.
Eating a normal-sized meal may become a possibility after the baby drops. Before lightening, the baby and the uterus crowd the stomach, creating several digestive discomforts--such as heartburn, gas and bloating. According to Epigee.org, when the stomach is allowed more room, some of these symptoms may improve.
When lightening occurs, a woman can experience an increase in pressure in the vaginal and rectal areas. Pressure from the baby can increase hemorrhoids or cause them if the woman has avoided them, according to Epigee.org. Constipation can increase due to the shift in pressure inside the woman's body.
Pain 'Down There'
When the baby moves or kicks, the mother may feel it in the vagina, perineum or rectum. This can be quite uncomfortable and even painful. Lightening can make a woman feel as if the baby is so far down in the pelvis that he is close to coming out. While this is the sensation, it is not the case, because the amniotic fluid is still surrounding the baby. When Braxton-Hicks contractions occur, the woman may feel some of the pressure in her vaginal and perineal areas.