My baby’s head is engaged: What does it mean?

Understanding what is meant by saying your baby’s head is engaged and what it means for labour

What does it mean when my baby’s head is engaged?

What does the term ‘baby’s head is engaged’ actually mean?

Pregnant woman on birthing ball to help head engage

Throughout your pregnancy you are bound to have heard a whole host of new terms you would never previously have heard. And as your birth approaches, the phrase ‘head engaged’ is bound to crop up.

What does my ‘baby’s head is engaged’ mean?

If your midwife tells you your baby’s head is engaged it simply means your baby is in the correct position for birth, which is that their head has moved down to sit in the pelvis.

What are the symptoms of the head being engaged?

As your baby grows at the end of your second trimester and into your third, you will notice you feel more full up and may be more breathless. This is due to your baby getting bigger and pushing into the space of your stomach and lungs. When your baby moves down into your pelvis you may experience ‘lightening’, this can occur up to a month before your due date, especially if this is your first baby. When your baby’s head engages, you may notice these symptoms ease as your baby drops down into the pelvis freeing up more space for your stomach and lungs.

When baby’s head is engaged, how long before I go into labour?

There is a common myth that once your baby’s head is engaged your labour is imminent. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. The truth is, there is no answer to this question that is the same for all women. In first time mothers it usually means labour is 2-4 weeks away. For women who’ve already had children, the baby may not ‘drop’ until labour begins. It can even vary for the same woman with different pregnancies too.

Is there anything I can do to encourage my baby’s head to engage?

The truth is, no. Again some myths surround ways to help your baby engage, but there is no medical evidence to back it up. You could try doing circle movements sat on a birthing ball or try swaying from side to side. But the reality is your baby’s head will engage when it’s ready. Your body is geared up for birth and your baby will naturally make its way down when the time is right.

What factors can stop my baby’s head engaging?

  • Posterior position: This is where your baby’s back is lying against your back and it can make it harder for your baby to engage.
  • Smaller babies: If your baby has plenty of room to move they are less inclined to feel the need to move down and engage. 
  • Placenta position: The shape of your pelvis or the position of the placenta can make it difficult for your baby’s head to engage.
  • Bigger babies: If your baby is big it is more common for your baby's head to engage as contractions begin.

My baby’s head is engaged: What does it mean?