How You Carry Your Baby During Pregnancy
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How you carry your baby during pregnancy is often thought of as a fun, completely unscientific, way of predicting the sex of your child. In reality, the shape and position of your bump is determined by other factors.
What does carrying high or low mean?
'High' or 'low' relates to the position of the womb. If you are carrying 'high' it means that your bump is high on your abdomen, sometimes even right up below your breasts, whilst carrying 'low' means that your bump is closer to your pelvis. You may also hear people refer to you as being 'wide', where your bump spreads out to the sides, or 'narrow', where it protrudes frontally.
Why do women carry differently?
Your abdominal muscles can determine how high you carry your baby. The tighter they are, because of fitness levels or being a younger mum-to-be, then the higher your baby will be carried. If you are older, or had your muscles loosened by previous pregnancies, then you will probably carry lower.
The shape of your bump is connected to your body type or, more specifically, the length of your torso. If you have a short torso then there is less room for the womb to grow up so it gets wider instead. If you have a long torso there is more room for growth between the pelvis and rib cage so your uterus will stay narrower.
The baby's position has a role in how your bump looks too. If your baby prefers to stretch sideways this will make you carry wider. In late pregnancy when the baby drops in readiness for birth you will probably notice your bump gets lower.
I'm worried my bump isn't the right size or shape
The first thing to remember is that every pregnancy bump is unique. However, this can lead to some women worrying that theirs is the wrong shape or too big or too small. The first myth to dispel is that a big bump necessarily means you are having a big baby, or vice versa. In reality a tall, upright woman with good muscle tone will carry high and her bump may not be that noticeable. A smaller person is more likely to have a noticeable bump. If your baby is lying sideways in the transverse position your bump might also look different. Other factors include how much weight you put on during pregnancy, the amount of amniotic fluid and the size of the placenta. Of course, if you are carrying more than one baby you can expect your bump to be bigger.
So the size of my bump really doesn't matter?
Your bump will be measured by the midwife at your antenatal appointments because the size can be a cause for concern, although this is rare. If the bump is small it could indicate that the baby is not growing, whereas if it is very big it could be a sign of pregnancy-related diabetes or that there is lots of fluid present.
From when you are around 24 weeks pregnant your midwife will use a tape measure to check the distance from the top of the womb, also known as the fundus, to the upper edge of the pubic bone. This measurement is known as the fundal height.
The number of centimetres should match the number of weeks of your pregnancy, allowing for a centimetre or two. If you are found to be large or small for your date you may be referred for investigations, but the chances are that everything will be normal, especially if this is the only indicator giving possible cause for concern and you are otherwise fit and healthy.
Midwives are very experienced in bumps so if she is happy with how you are measuring then you can feel reassured.
Remember it is rare for the size of your bump to mean there is a problem. The chances are your bump is just its own unique size and shape.
Old wives' tales
Almost everyone you meet will have a prediction on whether you are having a boy or a girl based on your shape, so be prepared to be the subject of plenty of guessing games amongst friends and colleagues. The old wives' tales say that carrying high means it is a girl and carrying low means it is a boy. If you carry wide, that is another indicator it is a girl, whilst narrow means a boy. Just do not start painting the nursery pink if you are carrying high and wide, unless of course you have found out the sex of your baby through the more reliable (although still not foolproof) method of finding out at your ultrasound scan.