How to tell if Baby is Head Down?

How to tell if baby is head down and almost ready for the big day? The answers to this question are important to any mom-to-be because the baby’s position relates directly to how complicated the labor and delivery might be. Also, figuring out how the baby is situated is helpful for planning ahead with your OB/Gyn. in the event a C-section is necessary or even to try to avoid one altogether.


There are a few different ways to tell if baby is head down. Some are procedures performed by you or your obstetrician. Others are physical changes and symptoms that you might experience during the last trimester.

They include:

  • Belly Mapping
  • Lightening
  • Leopold’s Maneuvers

Another way of figuring out how to tell if baby is head down involves good old-fashioned intuition based on where you feel the movement or “kicking”. Though this is not quite reliable, it’s worth mentioning just for the sake of developing the habit of tracking baby’s movements.

What You (or the Doctor) Will Need

where the baby’s head is located

The items needed depend on who is determining where the baby’s head is located in your womb. More than likely, your obstetrician or midwife will employ:

  • A fetoscope
  • A Doppler (if the practitioner prefers that instrument for listening to baby’s heartbeat)
  • Ultrasound scanner, video monitor, and a transducer

If you are figuring out how to tell if baby is head down, then your list of necessary supplies is less complex. They include:

  • Washable marker or finger paint
  • A prop, like a doll, with head and limbs (this is used as a guide for belly mapping)
  • A camera (to take a picture in case you decide to get creative with drawing your belly map)
  • A keen sense of touch

You will find that all procedures related for telling where the baby’s head is located will be quite simple and painless.

How to tell if Baby is Head down Using a Belly Map

One very interesting and amusing way to figure out how to tell if baby is head down is a method called Belly Mapping. The procedure is quite simple, but you might need someone else to help you draw on your belly or to hold the prop while you draw.

Plus, this procedure is best performed right around the eighth month. You can try this at home, but a doctor or midwife, who has a fetoscope or Doppler readily available, can locate the baby’s heartbeat.

1. Finding the Head

2. Locating the Heartbeat

3. Using the Doll as a Guide

4. Locating the Bum

5. Finding & Marking the Limbs

6. Filling in the Details

Lightening During the Third Trimester

Lightening occurs when the baby “drops” down during the final stages of pregnancy usually around two to four weeks before delivery, though for some moms it may not happen until right before labor starts.

​Changes that Happen during Lightening

  • The urgent need to go to the bathroom more often
  • Ability to breathe more easily since the baby is no longer pushing up on the lungs
  • Less heartburn if that has been a problem during the first part of the third trimester
  • A slight change in the shape of your stomach

So how to tell if baby is head down, as opposed to a breach or even a transverse position? A practitioner might be better equipped to determine which station the baby is in at this point. Stations are measurements of how far down the baby’s head is located.

The Three Stations

  • -3 - where the baby’s head is just above the pelvis
  • 0 - where the baby’s head is “engaged” or touching the bottom of the pelvic region
  • +3 - when you’re in the last stages of labor and the baby is “crowning.”

What is important to remember is as your baby moves from one station to the next, you will definitely feel the pressure and eventually, the urge to push.

Leopold’s Maneuvers to locate your baby’s head

Unless your practitioner decides to perform another ultrasound, he or she will perform a simple, painless procedure called Leopold’s Maneuvers to determine the location of the baby’s head. Here’s how it’s done:

1. Palpation

2. Location of Limbs and Spine

3. Search for the Head

4. Direction of the Head


So did you find these instructions interesting and helpful? Trying the belly map can give you a memorable and artistic image of how your baby is located in the womb. Likewise, the symptom of lightening along with a doctor’s application of Leopold’s Maneuvers will give you the reassurance that the baby is in head-down position and ready for a safe delivery. Even just knowing how the doctor goes about determining the baby’s position will help you to feel more relaxed at your next appointment.

What do you think about the idea of attempting a belly map? Or what are your thoughts on palpation to find your baby’s position? Please feel free to share your insight with us and to share this information with your fellow moms-to-be.

Sarah Palmer

Hi! I'm Sarah. My husband and I have a beautiful little girl; plus we’re anxiously awaiting the arrival of Baby #2, so this is a very exciting time for us. Throughout this amazing journey called Parenthood, I’ve learned so much and love sharing my experiences with other parents at SarahsLovelyFamily.com. I'd love to share my discoveries with you too!

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