When you're pregnant, people love to randomly choose some aspect of your body and use it to predict your future: Carrying high? You must be having a girl. Carrying small? Small baby. (Big? Big baby.) Carrying low? That baby's coming early! Never mind that some of these bits of wisdom end up directly conflicting with each other, because whoever's telling you what kind of baby you're having and when is convinced they're correct. Usually, they're not. But are they ever? Does carrying low mean early labor?
First, might as well go ahead and clear up another rumor associated with carrying low: That you're having a boy. Anecdotal evidence aside, just like the thing about high bumps being girls, experts still say these connections are nothing more coincidences.
“It’s clear to say that a child’s genitals has nothing to do with how the woman’s body looks when she is pregnant," Professor Steve Robson, the Vice President of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, told HuffPost Australia.
"The way a woman carries a baby has more to do with the size of the baby — then the belly tends to pivot forward."
"If the baby is smaller, it is more likely to be lower in the pelvis," Robson added. "So a baby that is larger than average is more likely to be higher, a smaller baby will be lower."
Well, that makes sense. But the lower a baby gets, the closer they are to the door, so to speak... right? So wouldn't it also make sense if that particular position resulted in an early exit?
Not necessarily. I carried fairly low with all three of of my pregnancies, but most of all with my third. Not long into my third trimester, my doctor started making a concerned face every time she felt for the top of my son's head.
"He's low," she would say, grimacing on my behalf.
The doctor knew how extremely uncomfortable it can be to carry a baby that low for that long. The only way I can think to describe the experience is that it's kind of like walking around with a bowling ball between your legs. The pressure on my bladder was unrelenting. My lower back was splitting apart at the seams, and my sciatica was screaming.
"You're gonna go at least two weeks early," the nurse said, attempting to comfort me.
My son was so low that the doctor advised me not to travel over 20 to 30 minutes from the hospital, and still I technically had weeks to go. Day after day, I woke up expecting it to be the day. In the end, my son was born just five days shy of his official due date: early, but barely.
It could be that people associate carrying low with labor because of what naturally happens to your body as you get closer to childbirth. In a process called "lightening," your baby "drops" into your pelvis, according to BabyCenter.
You can feel lightening up to a month before your due date, and when it happens, you'll know. Not only can you oftentimes see the actual change in your shape, but several of your pregnancy symptoms will shift around, too. Bad news first: You'll have to pee more than ever, and the pressure on your pelvis can make walking difficult (hence the pregnancy "waddle"). The good news is, heartburn tends to subside after lightening occurs, and it's easier to eat more than two bites of food at a time before feeling ridiculously full. Your stomach isn't the only part of your body that benefits, either: You also might find that you don't get short of breath as often.
Even though lightening definitely means your body is starting to prepare itself for delivery, it's not a guaranteed indication of when labor will start. (You should, however, tell your doctor if you feel a sudden increase in pelvic pressure or like your baby is "pushing down" before 37 weeks.) You could have weeks left to wait, or no time at all (some women don't experience lightening until labor actually begins).
It's also worth mentioning that women who've already given birth tend to carry their babies a bit lower, as Parents reported. That's because pregnancy stretches out abdominal muscles, making them weaker, so that they can't support subsequent pregnancies quite as well. (But that doesn't mean second babies come sooner than they're supposed to, either!)