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You are here : home > Pregnancy > Labour and Delivery > Prelabour and Engagement

Prelabour and Engagement

Prelabour and Engagement

Are you aware of the changes that take place in your body when it prepares for labour and delivery? Read on to know what is prelabour and engagement and what exactly happens when the due date of labour and delivery nears.

A woman’s body undergoes a lot of changes during the entire pregnancy term. When the end of the pregnancy term nears, the body undergoes crucial processes like prelabour or dilation or cervix, lightening or dropping of baby in the birth canal, engagement etc. Let us take a look at the signs and symptoms of these changes that you will undergo as your due date nears. This information will help you understand what exactly you can expect when the date of delivery nears. It will also help you prepare mentally for the process of labour and delivery.

What is prelabour?

Prior to labour, the cervix undergoes a process, sometimes called ripening, in which it becomes thinner (effaced), more pliable and slightly dilated. The beginning of cervical effacement and dilation is known as prelabour. This can precede labour by a full month or even just a few hours if it is your second pregnancy. In your ninth month, the doctor looks out for certain signs of imminent labour. These are signs that you might even be able to see for yourself.

What is "engagement" (sign of prelabour)?

In first time pregnancies, the foetus begins its descent into the pelvis, two or four weeks before the onset of labour. This is 'engagement'. In subsequent pregnancies, this could take place just a couple of hours before real labour begins.  Besides this, your breathlessness will considerably decrease as the foetus moves down, away from the lungs. You will automatically feel an increased pressure in the pelvis and on the rectum.

You won't gain much weight after this. In fact, some women have been known to even lose a couple of pounds. You will find a marked change in your energy levels. Some women get increasingly tired because of the excessive weight and others experience a sudden spurt of energy in preparation for the arrival of the little one (called the 'nesting instinct').

What is "lightening" or "dropping"? Is it the same as engagement?

Lightening or dropping is the descent of the baby into the pelvis in the latter weeks of pregnancy. This is not the same as engagement where the baby's head (unless it is breech, in which case it is the buttocks) moves down to the level of the ischial spines and gets "engaged".  Lightening is accompanied by less shortness of breath, decreased pressure in the stomach, and the feeling that the baby has "dropped".  It also increases pressure in the pelvis and backache, leads to more frequent urination and constipation, the initial appearance or aggravation of haemorrhoids and varicose veins in the legs.  Many women also complain of swelling of the legs and feet, and possibly more difficulty in walking.

If my baby hasn't yet “engaged” will my delivery be delayed?

The term for the foetus moving into the birth canal is known as "engagement". In a first time pregnancy, this engagement takes place 2 or 3 weeks before delivery. In subsequent pregnancies, it may occur just before the onset of labour. If this is your first pregnancy, then it is quite possible that engagement might have occurred without your realizing it. Your doctor will be checking for this engagement through an internal examination.

Since engagement and dilatation of the cervix can occur anytime over a few hours or even a few weeks, not having your baby's head engaged in the cervix is not indication that you will go past your due date.

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anamil.10 years ago
great page
mirela.10 years ago
excellent informations!
nancy.10 years ago
this is a great page. i've been looking for information on engagement and lightening, and this is the best i've found so far. not too much info..just enough to explain it well.
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