It’s pretty common for expecting parents to feel like their child is the next Rocky Balboa while in the womb. There’s a lot of kicking and punching going on — especially when you’re trying to fall asleep and stay asleep, of course. But what about if you feel movement more towards your cervix? You've probably sent yourself into a panic wondering if your baby kicking your cervix is a sign of labor, and whether or not it means that your baby is breech. Here’s all that the experts want you to know.
What does it mean if your baby is kicking your cervix?
Feeling like your baby is kicking you in the cervix is completely normal and common. “Earlier in pregnancy, pre-32 weeks, babies have a lot more room to move around,” Sara Lyon, a doula and birthing expert, tells Romper. “It’s normal for a baby to be mobile, changing positions, until about 35 weeks, at which time they usually settle head-down into their birth position. You could feel the baby kicking the cervix pre-32 weeks without concern. It’s just as likely that the baby’s hands are contacting the cervix, as many babies hold their hands close to or on their faces in utero — remember that the baby is usually upside down, so the face is closer to the cervix than the feet at this point.”
While Dr. Adrienne Zertuche, an OB-GYN at a Division of Atlanta Women’s Healthcare Specialists explains to Romper that it’s normal for pregnant people to feel movement throughout all parts of the uterus, including the cervix, the vagina is a different story. “If you feel movement in your vagina, you should call your doctor,” Zertuche warns. “He or she may need to evaluate you for a rare complication of pregnancy, where the cervix dilates without painful contractions, and the baby is at risk of being born early."
If you do feel like your baby is kicking unusually south, it’s likely that “the baby may be kicking the top part of the cervix, which connects to the remainder of the uterus,” Zertuche explains. But does this mean the baby is breech — aka positioned with their feet down below their bottom? It could, but not necessarily.
As Zertuche explains, “Sensing fetal movement at the level of the cervix does not necessarily mean that your baby is breech, but you should mention it to your doctor if you are beyond 34 or 36 weeks gestation. It's normal for babies to change positions frequently during the second and early third trimester (from breech, to head down, and back again).”
Things only become a concern as you get closer to your birth date and if you plan to have a vaginal birth. “As you near your estimated due date, the baby should be upside down in your uterus in a tight ball, fitting very snuggly,” Lyon says. “At this late stage in pregnancy, the movement feels more like rolling around, not so much like kicking, and certainly not kicking downwards to the cervix unless the baby is in the breech position (bottom and feet down). If you’re feeling kicking at the cervix, your provider might request a sonogram, or a palpation exam with the help of a doppler to determine the position of the baby. The doppler tracks the heartbeat and can be used to find out where the heart and therefore the fetus is in the uterus.”
It makes sense as your baby is big enough that you would be able to feel their movements and they still have room to swim around during this time. “In the last four to six weeks of your pregnancy, your doctor will do an exam or an ultrasound to ensure that the baby is in a safe position to attempt a vaginal delivery,” Dr. Zertuche says, and of course they will check Baby’s position when you’re in labor before they let you start pushing.
Can a baby kicking your cervix cause labor?
As you feel your baby kick your cervix, a thought might pass your mind wondering if it will make you go into labor. But can it ever actually cause labor? Simply put, no. “I’ve never experienced that in my career, nor have I heard of a baby kicking the cervix causing labor,” Lyon says. So that’s one less thing you have to worry about.
Again, a baby kicking your cervix won’t make you go into labor, but it could be a result of impending labor, depending on the circumstances. “Although the baby kicking the cervix is not likely a cause of labor, it can be a consequence of labor and of a presentation that is not head first,” Dr. Alan Lindemann, an OB-GYN and maternal mortality expert, tells Romper. “You need to call your doctor or go to labor and delivery.” As always, reach out to your health care provider if you have questions.
Could it be a sign of labor?
It is possibility, though not a definite one. “Yes, it can be a sign of labor, as well as malpresentation (not being head first) and cervical dilatation,” Lindemann says.
That being said, the feeling of pressure or pain around you cervix is likely due to something else, as Lyon explains. “You could mistake the cervical fibers twitching or cramping in early labor as the baby kicking, but the baby kicking the cervix is not a sign of labor,” she explains.
As long as you feel the baby moving, that’s typically a good sign everything’s going just fine in there, and you have a healthy and active growing baby. Even though they may be annoying with their timing, try to relish this closeness you have with your baby now, and rest (if you can) assured that it’s typically normal to feel movement in your cervix in addition to the rest of your baby bump.
Sara Lyon, birthing expert, doula, author of The Birth Deck and You’ve Got This: Your Guide to Getting Comfortable with Labor
Dr. Adrienne Zertuche, MD, OB-GYN at a Division of Atlanta Women’s Healthcare Specialists
Dr. Alan Lindemann, OB-GYN and maternal mortality expert
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