When I was pregnant, almost everyone I came across seemed hellbent on visually analyzing my baby bump, then letting me know what it said about me and my pregnancy. Some people believe the position of your belly can predict a future baby's sex or when they'll be born, and (in my experience) those people just love testing that theory on pregnant people. But what does it mean if your belly is low during pregnancy?
To find out more about what your baby bump's appearance actually means, Romper spoke with certified nurse midwife and dual nurse practitioner Lise Hauser, APRN, an assistant professor of obstetrics in the Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing at Loyola University of Chicago, Illinois, who has seen thousands of bumps in all states of gestation. How you carry your pregnancy doesn't say anything about your baby's sex, Hauser explains, but it might say a few things about you, your body, and your future baby's development.
Since the the beginning of time, people have been trying to predict the sex of their fetuses in a whole host of ways, analyzing things like the size and shape of pregnant people's bodies, their pregnancy cravings and symptoms, and even their weird pregnancy dreams. But when researchers at Johns Hopkins University put pregnant people's prediction skills to the test, they found that various methods moms-to-be used to predict the sex of their future babies — including bump height — are inconsistent at best.
"Unfortunately, we can't tell the sex of the baby just by looking at the shape of mom's belly," Hauser tells Romper. Whether you carry your pregnancy low or high can tell a trained medical provider a lot about you, your pre-pregnancy body size and shape, how much room your fetus has to move and grow, and whether or not you’ve been pregnant before.
Per the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, pregnancy can bring about a whole host of physical changes, including a visible "bump," which generally appears during the second trimester of pregnancy. The size and shape of that bump, the same site notes, depends on how strong your abdominal muscles are, your height and weight, and how much weight you gain during pregnancy.
Having a low bump during pregnancy might be more common during second and subsequent pregnancies, says Hauser, "when it's not the first baby, the abdominal muscles are weaker, than they were the first time. This is why second and third time moms often 'carry lower,' than they did with their first baby."
How you carry your pregnancy may or may not say anything about your baby, but your doctor or midwife might be able to tell a lot from measuring your uterus. "The top of the uterus is called the fundus. We measure fundal height at every visit to make sure the baby is growing well. A higher than normal fundal height can mean that a baby is larger than normal, or there's too much amniotic fluid," Hauser says. "A lower than normal fundal height can mean that the baby is not growing normally, that there's not enough fluid in the bag of waters, or that the baby is in a sideways position."
Towards the end of your pregnancy, Hauser says people may experience their baby dropping, or moving towards the birth canal to get ready to be born. This "lightening" can very well change how their baby bump looks, but might not actually show from the outside. "At the end of pregnancy, a mom may still be 'carrying high,' and the baby may not 'drop' until she's in early labor," she says.
As for whether or not well-meaning observers can notice these changes from the outside? Well, probably not. So feel free to tell Suzan to avert her eyes and keep her opinions to herself.
This post was originally published on Sep. 20, 2018. It was updated on Aug. 8, 2019.