What Is Lightening?

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One sign that labor may be near is when a pregnant woman experiences lightening, also known as the baby “dropping.” Learn more about why this happens and what to expect.

Woman on couch holding her baby

Larry Williams / Getty Images

What Is Lightening?

Lightening is when the fetus’s head moves deeper into the pelvis to prepare for birth. Since the baby is lower, it’s not pressing on the diaphragm and you may feel “lighter.”

Lightening occurs close to the time of delivery in the last trimester. It can happen anytime from a few weeks to a few hours before labor begins.

In first-time moms, dropping usually happens two to four weeks before delivery. In women who’ve previously given birth, lightening may occur when labor commences.

Symptoms of Lightening

Lightening is usually a gradual process, so you may not notice that it’s happening.

Many women welcome lightening during pregnancy because it can alleviate certain pregnancy discomforts. It also signals your pregnancy is in the home stretch.

While you may or may not notice a difference in how your belly looks, you may experience less heartburn and have an easier time breathing. With more breathing room, you may also be able to eat more before feeling full or uncomfortable, since there is less pressure on your stomach.

However, with the baby positioned lower in the pelvis, you may feel pelvic pressure. Additionally, the lowered station of the baby means there is more pressure on the bladder. This often results in more frequent trips to the bathroom.


There is no treatment for lightening.

A Word From Verywell

While lightening is a normal occurrence during pregnancy, each pregnancy is different. If you suspect something feels off or you’re experiencing lightening before 37 weeks, you should check in with your obstetrician.

2 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. How to tell when labor begins.

  2. University of Michigan Health. Pregnancy: dropping (lightening).

By Cherie Berkley, MS
Cherie Berkley is an award-winning journalist and multimedia storyteller covering health features for Verywell.