Does the Way You Carry Your Pregnancy Mean Anything?
There are a million myths and old wives' tales about what your baby bump indicates. As a pregnant person's belly grows, the bump may take on a variety of characteristics. It could be high and right under your rib cage or it could be down lower in the stomach area. The bump can present wide, or you can carry it all out front so you don't even look pregnant from the back.
What do all of these characteristics of a baby bump mean—if anything? Here are some explanations for how you may carry your pregnancy.
High or low?
One of the most popular myths out there is that pregnant people who are carrying high are expecting a baby girl, while a pregnant person who is carrying low is expected to have a baby boy.
Do you wonder if there's any truth to this?
"No, carrying high or low does not correlate with whether a person is carrying a boy or a girl. It generally has more to do with the pregnant person's abdominal wall muscles," explained Amy Roskin, M.D., a board-certified OB-GYN and chief medical officer at Seven Starling, a maternal-health digital platform with headquarters in New York City.
The biggest factor in bump development
The main factor in how your baby bump grows is the woman's body type prior to pregnancy, stated Tara Scott, M.D., an OB-GYN in Fairlawn, Ohio.
"For example, someone who is short-waisted will not have as much room and may tend to carry more out front," she said.
On the other hand, if someone is tall, their bump may take longer to show because their uterus has more room to grow upward before it hits the rib cage.
No matter how your bump develops, it's influenced by many factors out of your control, including your height, how you carry your body weight naturally and the strength of your abdominal muscles.
"I carried high both times and had a girl both times," said Erin Bryant Petty, a mother of two in Grand Rapids, Michigan. "However, I think when you're short and you have a big bump, there is no other way to carry. It seemed impossible that [I] could've carried lower, just because I'm short-waisted and there was nowhere else for it to go. So I'd say I carried high and out."
Each pregnancy may carry differently
While each pregnancy is a unique experience, subsequent pregnancies normally are carried lower than the first.
"More often, people report carrying higher with their first pregnancy, with subsequent ones they may carry lower due to stretching and thinning of the abdominal muscles," Roskin explained.
The more pregnancies you carry, the more lax your abdominal muscles may become, which can contribute to a lower, larger bump that shows sooner.
"My first pregnancy, I barely had a bump until six months. My second pregnancy, I showed at three months, but my bump sat much lower. My third baby was…chunky and you could see this…in my bump, which took up my entire torso," recalled Laura Burton-Bloom, a parent of three in Hinchinbrooke, Quebec, Canada.
While it's totally normal to be concerned about the size and shape of your baby bump, you don't need to worry. Starting in the second trimester, your OB-GYN checks your fundal height—the distance between your pelvic bone and the top of your uterus—at each appointment, Scott explained. By tracking fundal height, your doctor is able to make sure that everything is on track, no matter how your baby bump presents itself.
Other important variables
Many variables can affect your bump's presentation, which usually becomes more prominent in the third trimester. These variables include how the baby is positioned in the uterus. If the baby is transverse, or sideways, your bump will be a lot wider than if the baby is in a head-down position. Most babies position themselves head-down by week 36 of pregnancy, according to Cleveland Clinic.
Another factor in how large your bump becomes is the amount of amniotic fluid you have surrounding the baby. If you have extra amniotic fluid, your doctor may diagnose you with polyhydramnios, a condition that affects up to 1 in 50 pregnant people. Depending on how much extra fluid you're carrying, you may be put on bed rest or the doctor may have to drain it.
Does bump shape affect labor?
Regardless of how you carry your pregnancy, it does not have any correlation with how labor and delivery will go.
"Once someone is carrying low, that could mean the baby's head has descended into the pelvis. This puts pressure on the cervix and can cause effacement. But I haven't seen that influence labor much," Scott said.
Effacement refers to the thinning of your cervix, which must be dilated to 10 centimeters and 100 percent effaced before a pregnant person can begin to push and deliver the baby.
Your bump is likely normal
Many variables in pregnancy can influence the size and shape of your bump, but most are totally normal and your doctor will keep you updated about your baby's growth and position during your pregnancy journey. If you're worried about how your baby bump is developing, talk with your doctor to make sure everything is on the right track.