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See What Pregnancy Lightening Is And If You Should Worry

Pregnancy lightening is one of the last body changes before childbirth.

As women enter the last stage of their pregnancy, their emotions are all over the place. It’s a mix between fear, anxiety and joy, as they wonder whether or not their children’s birth and due date will go as planned. That’s why, it’s very important for them to pay attention to the signs which indicate that labor is upon them. Such is the case for lightening, which is one of the first symptoms which tell you that the labor is approaching. Women know when lightening happens, thanks to some very obvious changes in their bodies.

WHAT IS IT?

Pregnancy lightening is not necessarily a sign of labor..

Lightening during pregnancy is a sharp pain felt in the pelvis or around the vagina. It’s called like that because of the baby who literally goes down the rib cage, engaging in the pelvis. Without the baby pressing on the rib cage, mothers feel a sense of relief, being able to breathe better and for longer periods uninterrupted.

WHEN DOES IT HAPPEN?

Pregnancy lightening occurs at the end of the third trimester, when the baby drops down into his/her mother’s pelvis.

WHAT HAPPENS AFTER LIGHTENING?

Pregnancy lightening might not come right when you're about to enter labor.

When you experience lightening, while you might be already at the stage you’ve got rid of undesired symptoms (and yes, hot flashes, I am talking about you too!), new ones might appear. There are women who feel more pressure on their bladders, resulting in more visits to the bathroom, while others constantly believe that the baby is about to come out, because of the head pressuring the pelvic floor and the rectum. In some cases, mothers feel baby’s feet or shoulders dropping first in that area.

While lightening isn’t a good indicator of labor, usually it happens 2-4 weeks before it for 65% of the first-time pregnancies. Typically, lightening only occurs for women becoming moms for the first time, while for those who have already gone though a pregnancy, the lightening might happen just as the mom-to-be is entering labor. Therefore, it’s either a gradual process or an indicator that you are ready to give birth.

HOW FAR DID THE BABY MOVE DOWN?

To establish exactly where the baby’s head is, as he/she reaches the pelvis, doctors use “stations” for measurement. The values are between -5 and +5, with -5 meaning that the baby is still positioned right above the pelvis, while +5 meaning that the baby’s head is emerging from the birth canal (also known as ‘crowning’). When the baby is at 0, it indicates that the head is placed right at the end of the pelvis.

HOW WILL MY BODY CHANGE?

Pregnancy lightening comes with changes to your body.

Because the baby drops and moves to the bottom part of the abdomen, pregnant women will be able to see their stomach change shape. Other mothers can even feel the child’s head pressing on the pelvis; this means that whenever you sit down, you will feel as if the baby was right in your lap. This change might not look so obvious for the mom herself, but others will take notice.

As the baby drops to the pelvis, you will stop going through bouts of shortness of breath, which were happening because the baby was positioned right under the rib cage. Thanks to lightening, the lung pressure is relieved and you can breathe normally, for extended periods of time.

Before reaching the end of the third trimester, many pregnant women found it hard to finish meals in their entirely. This was happening because the baby was pressing on your stomach, making you feel fuller. However, when the baby drops, you might experience an increased appetite, because apart from the relieved pressure from the lungs, the stomach pressure is also considerably reduced. Heartburn is also significantly reduced after the baby drops.

As mentioned earlier, while the upper body relieves the pressure, when the baby drops, the pressure is on the bladder, since the baby is now so much closer to it. So, get ready to take trips to the bathroom more often, because there might be an increased urge to urinate. You can end up urinating several times per night, but that’s a completely normal reaction of your body, due to the many changes happening on the inside.

WHAT ARE OTHER PAIN SENSATIONS RELATED TO THE LIGHTENING?

Yoga helps relieve pain from pregnancy lightening

The sharp pain due to lightening is a feeling that many mothers-to-be are already familiar with – sure, the baby dropping is a new sensation, but thankfully, it’s not anything completely unbearable or out of this world. If you ever had soreness or nerve pain, it’s pretty much how lightening feels like. Here are some of the most common pains associated with it:

1) The baby is stretching. Those babies who have an increased level of activity while in their mothers’ belly, might stretch, adding an extra pressure on the body and causing a painful sensation. Baby’s on the move even before seeing the world and he/she wants you to take notice that there is a tiny human being there in your belly. When baby makes his/her presence felt, lying on the side opposite to the one causing the pain usually helps.

2) Babies changing position. Depending on the position the baby is coming out or turning into, you can experience sharp pain when that happens. Baby can’t stay still – again, try to move around, change positions or try taking a hot shower to relieve the pain. You can also try to do some stretching, to nudge your baby to switch to a more comfortable spot.

3) Nerve pain. When the baby is pressuring the nerve, it causes an acute pain. Sciatica pain, for instance, can start as early as 15 weeks and while it’s unpleasant – your baby is fine. In such cases, doing Yoga helps by changing posture and making you more flexible. Make sure to wear comfortable shoes and sit down whenever you feel like it.

4) Not enough magnesium in your body can be a reason for concerns. Most pregnant women need magnesium supplements, because of the low levels in their body. When there is a deficit, they experience muscle pain, cramps, sciatica and even a frequent vomiting sensation.

5) Ligament pain. The round ligament sustains the uterus when you are pregnant, but as the uterus is constantly expanding during pregnancy, the ligament pressure is also higher, causing a sharp pain when it stretches.

There you have it! Lightening is one of the very last body changes during pregnancy and even though it’s not necessarily linked with labor, it does tell you to prepare yourself for the arrival of the baby, since he/she is getting nearer and nearer to their exit door. It’s a welcomed departure for other symptoms – you probably hated the morning sickness with a passion and were extremely annoyed (just like everyone else) with your mood swings. Lightening, however, actually makes you feel better – well, sort of, by letting you breathe easier and getting rid of that feeling of being stuffed even though you know you haven’t eaten that much.

So, sit back and enjoy, because after lightening, in a month’s time at the most, the little person you’ve been waiting for will finally be ready to explore the world and discover love along the way.

How strong were your lightening symptoms during your pregnancy?

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